BELTON — The Belton girls basketball team is tired of getting pushed around by its opponents in District 8-5A. The way they’ve played recently, the Lady Tigers have taken big strides toward becoming playoff contenders and they took another step in that direction with a 42-34 victory over Waco Midway on Friday night at Tiger Gym.

“Our kids have learned it doesn’t matter the size, it doesn’t matter the quickness, we are capable of beating kids that have that stuff,” Belton coach Brenda Gomez said. “I thought we played really good defense. I felt like we were more determined. You could see it in their eyes. They were tired of getting pushed around. They knew they were capable of winning and they were going to try to do it the best they could.”

The Lady Tigers got 15 points from Kinsey Williams and 13 from Aubrianna Garcia as Belton (8-12, 3-4) stayed a game behind Temple for fourth place in the 8-5A standings at the midway point of the district schedule.

“It was pretty big win for us,” Williams said. “Before the game in the locker room we were talking about how big a win it would be for us because we actually have a chance to get in the playoffs. To win this means a lot to prove to the other schools that we’re not the same Belton team that we were.

“We’re being tougher out there. Usually they just push us around because they think we’re just Belton. We’re trying to prove to them that we’re not just Belton. They have to compete with us just like they have to compete with everybody else.”

The Lady Tigers put up a solid defensive effort, forcing 20 Midway turnovers.

“You can’t control the ball going in the hole, but if you do well on the defensive end, it gives you momentum to score on the offensive end,” Williams said. “Defense first and then you get more points on offense and then it all comes together.”

The game got off to a slow start, with Midway taking a 7-6 lead after the first quarter. Sophomore post Marie Benson had all of the Pantherettes’ first-quarter points and would finish with 19 points on the night to lead all scorers. Midway led 12-9 at the half, then took a five-point lead, it’s largest advantage of the night, early in the second half on a lay-in by Benson. A 6-0 Belton run, on a free throw by Emily Hugo, a 3-pointer by Garcia and a jumper by Blair Gilbert put the Lady Tigers up by a point.

The teams traded buckets the rest of the third quarter before a Williams 3 put Belton up 23-19 going into the fourth.

McKinzee Robinson started off the fourth quarter with a 3 that put the Lady Tigers up by seven. After a Midway basket Garcia hit 3 of 4 free-throw attempts to put Belton up by eight, its largest lead of the night. The Pantherettes went on a 7-2 run midway through the fourth to cut the Belton lead to three, but Williams sank a long jumper to put the Lady Tigers back up by five and Midway never really threatened again the rest of the way. Belton made 6 of 9 free throws in the final 2:30 to put the game away.

“The kids now see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel and they’re thinking, ‘We can do this, we can be a contender,’” Gomez said.

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