Lufkin’s Natasha Mack and Keyanna Jones weren’t getting any shorter, so the Bryan Lady Vikings grew more patient.
By doing that, they climbed into sole possession of third place in the District 14-5A girls basketball race with a 39-33 win Tuesday at Viking Gym.
“It was a very good team effort,” Bryan coach Beth Jesurun said. “It’s nice to get out of that funk that we’ve been in, even though we’ve played hard. Tonight, I thought the kids played hard and they played smart for the most part ... a couple of lapses, but not bad at all.”
Holding a three-point edge early in the second half, the Lady Vikings (11-8, 3-2) passed and dribbled around the perimeter until a shot became available. Penny Watson, who led Bryan with 16 points, found an early comfort zone away from the outstretched arm of the Lady Panthers’ 6-foot-3 sophomore Mack. Watson had Bryan’s first two shots in the second half, then Alex Sims pumped up Bryan with a 3-pointer from the left corner.
“We’ve got good stuff in, and if we’re patient and run it, we can knock down shots,” Jesurun said. “I’m proud of them, very proud.”
Bryan didn’t score in the second quarter until the 3 minutes, 57 second mark, and the first bucket of the quarter came after Lufkin (10-6, 2-3) had scored 10 straight to claim a 15-9 lead. Ronzasha Taylor took a step-back and coolly knocked down a 3-pointer to spark the Lady Vikings, who put together their own 11-0 run. Watson twice scored after steals, the second on a pull-up jump shot. She finished the half with an awkward-looking high shot off the glass with 2 seconds left.
“[Watson] had a great game,” Jesurun said. “That was big for us, and I thought we played their big kids as good as you can play them. They’ve got three kids over 6-1, and we played it well.”
Mack, a defensive force with six blocked shots, led Lufkin with 10 points — six in the fourth quarter. She scored back-to-back buckets for the Lady Panthers and hit two free throws with 4:09 left to narrow Bryan’s lead to 36-28. It got closer when Tiara Robinson knocked in a 3-pointer to cut the Bryan edge to five.
But the Lady Vikings “danced with who brung ’em” after that, working the ball away from the lane, awaiting a shot they liked. With the lead, they never had to find that shot, although Watson hit two free throws and Audrey Malone added one more. Bryan effectively weaved away the final two minutes of the game, with a three-play rotation not far across the time line.
Bryan’s defense was so good on attempted entry passes to Jones, a junior post player, that Lufkin picked up numerous turnovers trying to make the pass too precise. Jones scored just seven points. Robinson, who had a nice stroke on her jumper, scored nine.
When Lufkin missed, Bryan blocked out well. They also provided extra chances. Eleven of their 28 rebounds came on the offensive boards. Malone led the Lady Viking with nine rebounds.