The El Campo Ladybirds and the Wharton Lady Tigers produced a battle only worthy of two teams that are heading to the playoffs Friday, Feb. 7. Both needed the game for different reasons, but it was the Ladybirds on the road outlasting the Lady Tigers, 47-46.
Lady Tigers junior shooting guard J’kayla Davis had a look from three to win the game, but the Ladybirds had the right defense called. Davis' shot fell short and hit the front of the rim sealing the win for El Campo, and ending Wharton's hopes at the second seed in District 25-4A.
The biggest lead of the night was El Campo with an eight-point lead in the second quarter. El Campo junior shooting guard Mya Shorter had a couple of treys and ECHS led, 25-17.
Wharton switched up defenses and Shorter had a hard time getting open looks the rest of the way. The Lady Tigers chipped away at the lead and sophomore point guard Justaisha Holmes closed out the half with back-to-back layups to pull them within one point.
El Campo and Wharton remained close the rest of the way, trading scores and big plays down the stretch.
With Wharton trailing 45-44 and 1:30 left, got a layup from junior post Dreana Barrow, her only points of the game.
After an El Campo missed layup, Wharton had a chance to increase its lead, but a double-dribble turnover gave them the ball right back. With under a minute left to play El Campo junior point guard Jackie Nichols went right through the middle of Wharton's defense and floated the ball into the net off the backboard inside the free-throw line giving them the 47-46 lead.
In the second half, with Shorter being kept in check by Wharton's defense, Nichols kept the Ladybirds in the game with 15 points.
With 40 seconds left, El Campo fouled Wharton. The Lady Tigers in the double-bonus were awarded one and one, free-throws. A miss on the front end was picked up by El Campo.
Davis, Wharton's long-range shooter, dribbled the ball to the three-point line near Wharton's bench. El Campo's defense shaded towards Davis and had two defenders on her as she shot. Despite giving Wharton life, El Campo hung on.
"My girls played hard from the beginning to the end," Wharton Coach Ratysha Hardy said. "We did have some moments where we were not focused, but overall I'm proud of my girls. They played their butts off."
Wharton's Davis had a game-high 22 points. Nichols for the Ladybirds had a team-high 17 points.
By beating Wharton, the Ladybirds own the tie-breaker over the Lady Tigers. The Lady Tigers Tuesday, Feb. 4 played the Fulshear Lady Chargers to decide third and fourth place in the final regular game of the season. However, if Fulshear beat the Lady Tigers, they'll tie the Ladybirds for second place. Fulshear and El Campo would either play another game or flip to decide second and third place.
The playoffs start next Monday or Tuesday, Wharton and El Campo will play teams from District 26. As of Monday night, District 26 playoff teams are Navasota, La Grange, Giddings, and Smithville.