By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (February 23, 2016) — Stephenville has reached the regional quarterfinals for the seventh straight year, and the Honeybees know this round is often a litmus test on their playoff journey.
The Bees have followed their area round wins the last six years with a 2-4 mark in the regional quarterfinals, twice advancing to the regional tournament and ‘Sweet 16,’ and four times suffering season-ending losses.
“It’s never easy in this round. There are two hundred or some off number of teams out there and there are only 32 left,” said Stephenville head coach Alan Thorpe. It’s not easy getting to be among the ‘Sweet 16.’ It never is, and it won’t be easy for anyone (Tuesday).”
Especially with a rivalry showdown on tap. As in arch-rivals. Who have split their two prior meetings this season. Stephenville and Brownwood meet for the third time at Hamilton High School Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.
Stephenville wiped out all of a big deficit against Brownwood when the teams met at Gandy Gym, and climbed most the way – but not all – out of an even bigger hole on the road in Brownwood. The teams split their 6-4A district showdowns, with Brownwood taking second place thanks to a victory over league champ Abilene Wylie.
But Brownwood still had the tougher rout to the regional quarterfinals. The Lady Lions had to deal with Godley in the area round. Godley, which eliminated Stephenville in last season’s regional quarterfinals, rallied back from a 15-point deficit to trail by just two down the stretch, but Brownwood held on, 51-47. The Lady Lions routed Vernon in bi-district.
Stephenville ended up with a better draw, beating Wichita Falls Hirschi and Bridgeport, each on the strength of 16-0 runs. The area round saw the Honeybees go on a big early run for a 19-2 lead in what ended as a 51-36 win.
“I’m proud of our girls and the way we have come together and worked hard to get to this point,” said Thorpe of his team’s success. “Now we want to see if we can take this thing a step further.”
To Lubbock. For the regional tournament. For the third time in five years.
“Getting to Lubbock, to the regional, it’s all they can talk about,” Thorpe said of the Bees. “I’m sure it’s all Brownwood can talk about. It’s two teams that both believe they can bat the other and they both have beat the other.”
Thorpe says guard play will be the key for both teams. Brownwood will have to deal with Stephenville’s full-court pressure, and Stephenville has to stop the penetration of Treasure Wilson that so drives the Lady Lions.
“Treasure’s good, but you have to be careful how you decide to stop her because if you get too aggressive in help defense or over-collapse on her when she drives, she’ll kick it out and they have girls who can hit shots from the outside,” Thorpe said. “We have to keep her in front of us and we have to contain her, but that’s easier said than done.”
The other key for Stephenville, he says, is to cut down on turnovers.
“We can’t help them. If there’s one thing we’ve had a hard time with it’s turnovers. We’ve given the ball away too many times in the first two rounds and we can’t do that and stay in the game against Brownwood,” he said. “We have to take care of the ball and execute.”
News flash – So does Brownwood.
Because that’s what it takes to get to the regional tournament.
That’s what it takes to pass a litmus test.