RED OAK – It might have been senior night but it was the underclassmen who stole the show.
Five underclassmen combined for 27 points and strong defense as the Red Oak girls picked up a 58-28 win over Corsicana in a game originally scheduled for last Tuesday. Winter weather forced district-wide closures and delays, forcing the Lady Hawks to play three games in the final week of the regular season, starting with an emotion filled senior night against the Lady Tigers.
The win was far from pretty but it was a must-have.
“It’s a key win for us because we’ve only got two left. I was a little bit concerned just with being off and we’ve only had one day to practice so conditioning is always a factor,” coach Melissa Fullmer said. “We were a little rusty. Defensively I thought we could have done some things better and we missed some shots that we should make at home. But we got a win and it puts us now having won the last couple in a row, going into West Mesquite tomorrow, on a high.”
The Lady Hawks (16-12, 10-3 district) are slated to make up a Feb. 4 game against Lancaster on Tuesday and close the regular season at home against Lancaster. The team’s win over the Lady Tigers and Waxahachie’s loss to Lancaster ensures the team of a playoff berth but there is still a chance to move up in the standings with wins in the final two games.
But before the team could worry about any of that, it had to worry about a winless Corsicana team that was hungry to end a futile stretch.
Senior Kiona Robinson had the biggest night of any player, scoring 25 points but she and Gabby Pena (6 points) were the only two senior players to register in the scoring column. That’s where their underclassmen teammates came in.
Sophomore guard Diamond Lockhart scored 9 of her 14 points in the first period, helping Red Oak race out to a 24-6 first period lead and never look back. Freshman Shelby Dixon added 7 while Taylor McCullough had 3.
“It was senior night and we had to do it big for them,” Lockhart said. “We just knew we had to have their back because we want the underclassmen to have our back on senior night.”
The subplot of younger players stepping up got a defensive boost from Katie Boyce, who came off the bench to help key the team’s strong pressure early. Though she finished with just two points on a pair of free throws, Boyce grabbed four steals to lead the team.
As a team, Red Oak forced 10 first period turnovers and finished the first half with 18 takeaways. The pressure tapered off somewhat in the second half as the team forced just 13 combined turnovers in the third and fourth period.
Boyce, a sophomore, called the constant pressure a determined effort by the Lady Hawks to take out some frustration from the last two weeks. After having a bye, the game against Forney cut short and a week off due to ice, the team was ready to get back on the court and put up some points and pressure. The personal feeling of helping that cause was a needed morale booster.
“It felt really good, especially for me not being in and playing much until now. It felt really good to be able to contribute to that finally,” Boyce said.
With the playoffs looming, Fullmer was happy to see two important things from her team – the ability to respond to adversity and a more diverse balance among players on both offense and defense.
While a lot is still to be decided in the final two games of the season, Fullmer is hopeful that Monday’s game is a teaser to what the Lady Hawks can do as a collective unit in the playoffs.
“It’s always encouraging because if for whatever reason one of those seniors has an off night or they get in foul trouble, it’s nice to know we can bring in those kids and they can step up and play the minutes that we need them to play and contribute effectively,” Fullmer said.
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