By BRAD KEITH
JACKSBORO (February 15, 2018) — For the ninth consecutive year, Stephenville and head coach Alan Thorpe are among the final 32 girls basketball teams standing in its conference.
For the second straight year, Jayci Morton is playing at all-state level at just the right time.
Similar to the way she took over in the fourth quarter against Glen Rose in a Region I-4A quarterfinal lasts season, Morton saw to it that the Honeybees prevailed again Thursday, winning 56-46 against the best of the three Burkburnett teams Stephenville has defeated in this round since joining 4A in 2012-13.
Morton was 11-13 from the foul stripe on her way to leading all scorers with 19 points, 18 of them in the second half with 12 of those along with five key defensive rebounds in the 19-point fourth quarter by the Bees, who celebrated along with a large and loud contingent of Stephenville faithful on hand at Jacksboro High School.
Jayci Morton talks Honeybee basketball after leading the program to its ninth consecutive area-round playoff win.
Stephenville is one win from returning to the regional tournament at Lubbock Christian University, where their season finally ended in 2017. The Bees will face Abilene Wylie in Cisco or Midlothian Heritage in Glen Rose next week. Wylie and Heritage face off at 6 p.m. Friday in Dublin. If Heritage wins Stephenville will meet a district opponent in the regional quarterfinals for the third time in four seasons and the fourth time since Thorpe returned a decade ago for a second run at coaching the Bees.
Such consistency since his return in 2008-09 suggests bringing him back was a winning move. Nine times over.
Stephenville was ahead 37-35 entering the fourth, grabbing that slim margin on a runner by Payton Wall before the defenses traded stops over the final 40 seconds of the third.
The biggest fourth-quarter points not scored by Morton belonged to Jordan Carter, who buried a right-wing 3 for a 42-37 lead, part of a 9-2 run that broke open a tie game and put the Bees ahead 46-39.
Burkburnett got no closer than six the rest of the way, that coming at 51-45 before the Bees scored five of the final six points.
The late drama was necessary because of a sloppy first half that included a 13-0 Burkburnett run for a 14-3 lead after the initial bucket of the second quarter.
Stephenville 3-1 four minutes into the game, then went on a drought of more than six minutes. In that stretch, they surrendered five offensive rebounds on one possession when Burkburnett finally scored with the sixth attempts to lead 5-3. They scored on one-timers the rest of the way through the run. Stephenville took only one shot attempts during the brutal stretch, turning the ball over on its remaining six possessions.
Freshman Aly McClendon finally stopped the bleeding with a 3-point play inside, one of two she had on the night. That ignited a nice rally by Stephenville, which scored 13 of the half’s final 19 points and trailed 23-19 at halftime.
The Bees were quick to tie it at 23 and 25 before Hailey Martin was right on time with a bomb from the left corner for a 28-27 edge, the first Stephenville lead since midway through the first.
Martin and Carter each scored eight and McClendon six for Stephenville. Wall added five pints ,Tess Baker four, Madi Carter three and Hannah Powell one.