Late Champion bucket eliminates Lady Tigers in 39-38 heartbreaker

NEW BRAUNFELS – On a night when the Dripping Springs Lady Tigers needed a play in the clutch, the Boerne Champion Chargers Monday beat them to the punch.

A go-ahead Charger bucket scored with 11.9 seconds left in the game capped off a wild Champion comeback and ended Lady Tiger basketball team playoff hopes as Dripping Springs was eliminated in a 39-38 bidistrict round heartbreaker.

Dripping Springs (28-8) led 36-32 with less than three minutes to go before a furious 4-2 Charger run sliced the Lady Tiger lead to 38-36.

Following a Lady Tiger turnover, Champion’s Addisen King was fouled and hit one of two free throws, leading to the Chargers snagging the miss and eventually banking a bucket with 11.9 seconds left. Dripping Springs had one last chance to recover but the Lady Tigers couldn’t get a shot off before the final buzzer.

Struggles in snagging rebounds against a taller Champion lineup, primarily in the final seconds, partially played a role in the loss, said Lady Tiger head coach David Norris.

“You can’t give a big team like that three or four chances to make one basket and they happened to do it,” Norris said.

Missed Lady Tiger scoring opportunities also gave Champion fuel to orchestrate its comeback. Champion outscored Dripping Springs 16-8 in the fourth quarter with the Tigers missing three critical free throws. While the Tigers went 6 of 11 from the line, Norris said the misses “add up.”

Tiger senior Avery Johnson, who finished with a team high 14 points, said nerves got the better of the Lady Tigers down the stretch.

“We weren’t really focused in all of the time and it just came down to who wanted it more and I think there was a couple of plays we messed up,” Johnson said.

Early on, Dripping Springs overcame a sluggish start, as well as a physical Champion defense, to take a 26-16 halftime lead. Champion’s length and height advantage kept the Lady Tiger offense in check in the first frame and prevented the Tigers from finishing, said Norris. That changed in the second quarter when the Tigers sped up the pace and used their speed and agility to outscore Champion 12-4. Dripping Springs’ press zone defense also kept Champion’s leading scorers from finding a rhythm, Norris said.

But the tide turned in the third quarter when a series of Tiger turnovers led to a three pointer from Charger Prestley Hammond which cut the Lady Tiger advantage to under 10 points. From there, Norris said momentum rapidly shifted Champion’s way. Charger Hannah Barraza finished with 12 points.

“It was a battle. But they’re a good team and they were state ranked all season,” Norris said. “We had to get our girls mentally prepared to play this and I thought we battled well.”

Norris lauded the play of his senior class, who were sophomores when he arrived as head coach two years ago, who he felt raised the bar for future teams. Norris also felt Monday’s loss didn’t diminish winning a second straight district title, nor the amount of adversity the team faced all year long. Johnson felt the legacy left by the seniors is motivation for the next group of Lady Tigers.

“We have a lot of guards returning. This one is going to sting, but we’ll talk about it for offseason and we’ll get ready for it again next year,” Norris said.

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