The Lady Panthers suffered a heartbreaking 53-45 loss to the Mansfield Lady Tigers on Tuesday.

The Lady Panthers came out fighting, but the Tigers proved to be more than they could handle down the stretch.

“Our first half was really good,” interim head coach Heather McClelen said. “We were anticipating the passes on defense, which led to scoring some quick transition baskets on offense.”

She said she felt confident at halftime that her girls had things under control, but the defense needed some tweaking.

“I was very happy with the way the girls were playing” McLelan said. “We went into the locker room with a six-point lead. The only adjustment we made concerned our press. I felt like we needed to do a better job on our traps, but other than that, I felt pretty confident about the team’s level of play.”

Unfortunately, the Lady Panthers couldn’t hold onto their lead and they allowed the Lady Tigers to creep their way back into the game.

With quick points by the Lady Tigers and costly turnovers by the Lady Panthers, Mansfield was allowed back in the game in the third quarter.

“I felt like we bailed them out by getting ourselves in foul trouble and turning the ball over,” she said.

Going into the fourth quarter, the Lady Panthers had a one-point lead. They then went up by three points with 1:56 left in the game. That is when the train began to derail. The Lady Panthers got into foul trouble, which the Lady Tigers took advantage of. Mansfield scored 16 points from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter alone.

“We continued to commit dumb fouls, and that led to them scoring at the free throw line,” McLelan said.

Additionally, the Lady Panthers held Mansfield’s best player and leading scorer to zero points in the first half. But Chennedy Carter would not be denied in the second half, scoring a total of 22 points.

McClelen said she attributes the loss to poor execution in the second half and a lack of confidence.

“Again, it all goes back to confidence,” she said. “I told the girls that they needed to learn how to play when we’re up. While we were up, Mansfield went on a little bit of a run, and after that run we could never recover. I don’t care if they mess up, but I want them to bounce back and keep fighting.”

McClelen said one of the players that showed no fear and a lot of fight was freshman Brooke Greason.

“She shows no fear, and plays with all the confidence in the world and I love that about her,” she said. “Once we get her skills where they need to be, she is going to be a really great player. She’s not scared of anyone and I love that about her.”

The coach also bragged on the play of sophomore Mackenzie Sweeney. Greason and Sweeney were challenged with the task of defending Carter. They were responsible for keeping her scoreless in the first half.

“Sweeney and Greason are very similar in play,” McClelen said. “Sweeney has a little bit more experience, so she knows the court a little bit better. But if there’s a player from the other team who I don’t want to touch the ball, I put those two girls on her, because I know they will give me a 100 percent.”

Lauren Paschall led the way for the Lady Panthers with 11 points. Sweeney followed with seven, while Phylicia Kirk and Greason both had six.

The Lady Panthers (9-17 overall, 2-10 in district) will make their way to DeSoto at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

McClelen said her team has to pass the ball well, make cuts to the basket and look for easy baskets if they hope to walk away with a win.