BELTON — Nia Williams’ potential game-tying, mid-range jumper smacked off the front of the rim — just short, and an unfortunately apt conclusion to Belton’s season.
Carrying a one-game lead over Killeen for the fourth and final postseason spot entering Tuesday’s District 12-6A finale against rival Waco Midway, the Lady Tigers’ task was quite clear: knock off the league’s leader and clinch a playoff spot. A loss and the likelihood of advancing neared impossible.
Belton dissolved a seven-point deficit with seven straight points to open the fourth quarter and had two shots to tie it as time wound down. But Taylin Wesley’s 3-pointer was blocked, Williams turnaround at the buzzer didn’t clear iron and the Pantherettes held on for a 44-42 victory that put a bow on their outright 12-6A title and wrapped up the Lady Tigers’ 2018-19 campaign.
“We were in the middle of (the playoff chase). We could’ve been at the top of it,” Belton coach Brenda Gomez said. “But, we’re at the bottom.”
The Lady Tigers (21-14, 9-7) — who lost four district contests by four points or less — aren’t exactly at the bottom, though it may feel that way after the disappointing end. Tuesday’s defeat coupled with Killeen’s win over Waco left Belton and the Lady Kangaroos tied for fourth with the last playoff berth going to Killeen, which swept the season series.
“Against Killeen the first time we lost by two. Against Ellison the first time we lost by two. The first time against Midway we lost in overtime (by four). You’ve got to win one of those,” Gomez said. “I just feel like we kind of took it for granted that it was going to happen. And we preached to them, you have to put in every day. You can’t take time off. You can’t assume.”
Belton led 13-11 after the first quarter Tuesday and still had a two-point advantage after Janna Harvey’s free throw made it 17-15 at 5:37 of the second.
Midway (22-12, 13-3) connected with three consecutive 3-pointers — one by Kim Rivers and two from Reaghan Ridge — for a 24-17 lead, which was 27-19 by halftime.
The Lady Tigers reeled off six straight with points from Williams, Harvey and Elisa Priddy to cut the deficit to 27-25 at 6:09 of the third. Midway expanded its cushion to double digits for the first time with 1:20 to go in the period and took a 35-28 lead into the fourth.
Natasha Blizzard, Presleigh York and Wesley’s corner 3 quickly tied matters at 35, and it was knotted again at 37 after another 2 from Blizzard. Midway, though, twice led by as much as five down the stretch before York buried a 3 with 24 seconds left to give Belton a chance. But after the Pantherettes’ Jakoriah Long missed a free throw, the Lady Tigers came up empty in their attempt to win or send it to overtime.
Harvey posted a game-high 14 points for Belton. Blizzard added eight, and both York and Wesley chipped in five apiece. Ridge led the way for Midway with nine points. Shamaryah Duncan and Marlissa Watson each had eight.
“We’ll say a little luck always helps. Some of those shots for them didn’t fall and we happened to shoot the ball pretty well at times in the first half from beyond the arc that really helped,” Midway coach Ben Holder said. “It’s a highly competitive district. Any team can beat anybody. There’s never a day, or a game, that you can take for granted.”
TUESDAY'S 12-6A SCORES
- Copperas Cove 69, Temple 60
- Harker Heights 47, Shoemaker 21
- Killeen 51, Waco 46
- Waco Midway 44, Belton 42