GATESVILLE — The members of the Salado Lady Eagles may not be old enough to step foot inside a casino, but senior Jaylee Sebek said the team entered its Region III-2A bi-district playoff game with the Crawford Lady Pirates with house money.
After winning 20 games in the regular season, the Lady Eagles faced the champions of District 21-2A with nothing to lose.
“We weren’t supposed to win, we weren’t expected to win, we were trying to show people what we could bring,” Sebek said. “We told each other that we were going to fight as hard as we could.”
But on Monday, the long shot fell to some long shots.
Crawford hit a total of six 3-pointers in the first 17 minutes to beat Salado 68-46.
The Lady Pirates advance to the area playoffs to face either New Waverly or Teague.
Senior Ashley Adams led the Lady Eagles (20-10) with 12 points and fellow senior Taryn Kornegay added 11.
“We turned the ball over in the beginning and we let them get some second shots, that made a little bit of a difference,” Salado head coach Diane Konarik said. “I think we got a little bit rattled, but I think we came back and held our own ground.”
The Lady Pirates were going to attack from the perimeter and their strategy helped them build a big lead that they didn’t look back from.
Ellen Whitney scored the first points of the game on the first of Crawford’s five 3-pointers in the first half and the Lady Pirates jumped out to an 11-2 lead before Adams got a basket in the paint.
“You just have to respect teams like Crawford because they can shoot, they can play,” Adams said. “It was just an honor to be on the court with them.”
Crawford led by as many as 13 in the first quarter before Salado settled into the contest.
Crawford was able to put Salado in a hole because of its full-court press and ability to beat Salado’s 2-3 zone and man-to-man defense with both the 3-point shot and penetration.
“They were making it, they were feeling it and they were hot,” Konarik said. “There’s nothing you could do about a good shooting team.”
The Lady Pirates scored 11 points off 18 Lady Eagle turnovers and converted on six of their first 13 attempts from the 3-point line.
Salado did not let its season come to an end without a fight as Adams scored off a turnover to cap an 8-2 Lady Eagles run and cut Crawford’s lead to 14 points with 3:30 remaining, but that’s the closest the Lady Eagles would get.
Ann-Marie Dunlap opened the third quarter by completing a 3-point play at sparked a 7-0 Crawford run and put the Lady Pirates ahead 60-40 with 3:40 remaining.
“We tried to adjust to them, but when you’re hot on 3’s you can’t really do anything about that,” Sebek said.
Kornegay scored on a bucket in the paint with 1:02 to play that made it 64-46 and gave the Lady Eagles their final basket of the season.
Monday marked the final time Sebek, Adams and Kornegay would play for the Lady Eagles as all three will graduate in a few months.
“Everyone’s gotten so close, we’re just a family,” Adams said. “We’re a 2A school, so we’re really small and everybody knows everybody, but it’s definitely like a family to play with.”
Sebek finished with nine points, including a 3-pointer.
Salado took the floor with nine underclassmen, including starters Sarah Kelarek, a freshman, and Taylor Atwood, a junior.
Kelarek and Atwood combined to score 14 points and Konarik said the returning players gained some valuable experience despite the loss.
“They’re going to see what they can do and they’re going to work toward getting here,” Konarik said. “I think the whole experience, the whole atmosphere is what they’re going to see and they’ll get past it.”