When the Mansfield Lady Tigers saw the latest rankings, they were the number one team in the 2A-4 conference and the number two team in the entire state while also boasting a 17-2 overall record. It could be said that they were nearly unstoppable on the hardwoods at that point. But when you’re the top dog, you have a target on your back and a bounty on your head. Teams will do all they can to dethrone a top tier program such as Mansfield. One team seeking Mansfield’s crown as well as revenge for a mere five-point loss to the Lady Tigers earlier in the season was the Hector Lady Wildcats. On Tuesday, January 17th both Mansfield and Hector met for a rough and tumble Round2 game with 2A-4 supremacy at stake.
As quickly as the ball was tipped off, Hector took a steal and proceeded to lay up the first points of the game. The fast score blew the roof off of Wildcat stadium and made it very clear to the Lady Tigers that they were in hostile territory. Alyson Edwards quieted the ruckus home crowd with a hard-fought board bucket to even up the scoreboard and added a free throw to give Mansfield a 3-2 lead. Hector answered right back with a long-range three-pointer. Kynslee Ward tied the game up at 5-5 with a pair of free throws which caused Hector to call a time-out at 4:55 in the first quarter. The Lady Wildcats then went on a 7-2 run on Mansfield causing them to burn a time out of their own. Alyson Edwards pulled off a couple of put-back shots along with an added free throw, but the aggressive Lady Wildcats wouldn’t allow Mansfield to warm up the scoreboards. The Lady Tigers pulled within three points but that was as close as they would get as the first quarter closed with Hector ahead of Mansfield 15-12.
Hector came out of the quarter break with back-to-back layups to continue to keep momentum in their favor. This was proving to be a game of Hector’s aggression versus Mansfield’s talent as both teams traded knockout blows on the scoreboard and the floor. The physicality led to bodies on the floor, clashes for rebounds, and even bloody noses. Unfortunately, Mansfield was first to cross the free-throw opportunity threshold which sent Hector to the line for each foul called. The Lady Tigers took their bumps and keep trucking though as Natalie Allison drained a three-pointer and was shortly followed by Harlie Fuller who swished a three of her own to give Mansfield a 22-21 lead. Hector was able to hit a three-pointer to retake the lead and extended that lead by sinking more free throws. Alyson Edwards brought Mansfield within two points with a board bucket to shut down Hector’s scoreboard run. Even though the hostile environment and physicality of the game was set against the Lady Tigers, they survived enough to go into halftime only down 27-24 to Hector.
With the Lady Tigers being a second-half team, the Tiger faithful felt assured Mansfield would roar back. Natalie Allison handed the fans in red that assurance with a three-point shot to open the third quarter tying the game at 27-27. Hector would continue their bread and butter game though to regain the lead by drawing fouls and shooting free throws. With both teams playing wildly and aggressively, it was clear that it would only be a matter of time before things got out of hand. Less than two minutes into the third quarter, an official time-out was called due to a bloody player. The game resumed for a couple of seconds before another time-out was called for again for blood on another player. Alyson Edwards was a hungry shark after blood spilled as she went down low for a short jumper and then struck again for a put-back drawing a foul on the way up. The fouls against the Lady Tigers though began to take their toll as Mansfield held eight team fouls with 2:37 left still in the third quarter. With players in foul trouble, Seven Sanders stepped on the court and made an immediate impact. Sanderson rang up a pair of put-back scores to close the gap on the scoreboard to a 43-37 Hector lead at the end of the third quarter.
Only being down by six points, the Lady Tigers still had a shot going into the fourth and final quarter. Unfortunately for Mansfield though, the physical toll had already been done. The Lady Tigers lost a starter due to fouls at 6:27 in the fourth and another with 4:28 left in the game. With Mansfield fouling out with players, Hector opened the barn doors and let loose. The Lady Wildcats rolled up a 52-39 score before Kaylee Ward and Alyson Edwards put in a couple of free throws to stop the scoring run. Exhaustion and frustration made it easy for Hector to pick apart the Lady Tigers at each turn for the remainder of the game as the Lady Tigers fell to Hector with a 65-46 final.
The loss hits Mansfield in multiple areas. It gave the Lady Tigers their first conference loss, dropped them to second place in the 2A-4, and surely left them down in the dumps. Sounds rough, doesn’t it? If you think that this Mansfield team is going to just cry about it though, you don’t know this team very well. Yes, Hector beat them on the scoreboard and physically, but the most dangerous Tiger is a wounded one. The Lady Tigers will assuredly learn from their mistakes and become better prepared for any physical teams that lie ahead of them. Step one in this learning process will be hosting the ever-dangerous Lavaca Lady Golden Arrows on Tuesday, January 24th.