BELTON — The Belton girls basketball team hoped to keep gaining momentum Friday night from its 3-1 start in district play, while No. 16 Waco Midway was looking to bounce back from its one-point loss at home to Killeen and escape from the bottom half of District 8-6A after a disappointing 2-2 start. 

The Pantherettes started their ascent Friday night.

Strong defensive efforts hampered each offense through three quarters, but Midway (19-5, 3-2) finally found its way to the basket in the fourth, scoring 17 points and pulling away from Belton (15-10, 3-2) for a 42-29 win.

The Lady Tigers were held to their second lowest output of the season while committing 18 turnovers and shooting 9-for-32 from the field and 1-for-16 from the 3-point line.

“It wasn’t against (Midway’s) press,” Belton coach Brenda Gomez said of her team’s offensive mishaps. “It was us getting by someone and then chucking it out somewhere instead of just pulling up and taking the shot. I think (Midway’s) defense was definitely a factor, but we just didn’t finish our shots, and we didn’t take shots that we should’ve. That was disappointing.

“We should’ve taken some shots instead of passing the ball. You can’t be afraid to miss. We put ourselves in a position where we were chasing the ball. We didn’t connect on many shots that we did take.

“For three and a half quarters we were there. I felt like our defense was good. We did allow some baseline penetration, and (Midway) capitalized on that. We put ourselves in a hole.”

Belton trailed just 25-21 after the third, but Midway was able to spot holes in the Lady Tigers’ defense and carve through them in the final frame to put the contest out of reach. Pantherette Caleyah Burrell tallied nine of her 11 points in the fourth.

Belton, which was held under 10 points in every quarter and had just one lead in the second half, got within 29-25 with 3:39 remaining in the fourth, but the Lady Tigers were outscored 13-4 the rest of the way.

“Us having the lead late helped,” Midway coach Ben Holder said. “We just used our athleticism to go to the bucket. I knew it would be a tough game. I knew we were going to have to be solid on defense, or we were going to get back cut for easy layups or give up threes on downs screens all day long

“That’s what I always preach — defense first. If you don’t play solid defense, then what does it matter on the offensive end if you’re giving it right back.

“We did not shoot well. We were able to be scrappy. This was needed, especially after giving up the one-point loss to Killeen at home.

“We were in the basement. We had to climb some stairs to get up. We’re still not where we want to be. Hopefully we can keep rising.”

Belton’s own stingy defense kept Midway off-balance for three quarters, as the Pantherettes were plagued by 16 turnovers.

Keilee Burke, who scored 10 points, was 6-for-6 from the free-throw line and had nine rebounds, gave the Lady Tigers their last lead at 17-16 in the third after hitting two free throws. Belton led 9-7 at the end of the first and trailed 16-15 at halftime.

“(Brewer) did a good job stepping in and getting some really good rebounds,” Gomez said. “She didn’t turn it over but one time. Jocelyn Brewer and Keilee Burke I felt like did well as far as helping us out down low.”

Belton’s Cammie Moore and Elicia Jackson each contributed six points.

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