DUNCANVILLE, Texas -- Thanks to a string of 15 straight lopsided victories, the Duncanville Pantherettes have gone seven weeks since facing crucial fourth-quarter free throws.
Free throws in the fourth quarter turned out to be decisive in Duncanville’s 62-56 victory over neighboring rival Cedar Hill on Friday night at Sandra Meadows Memorial Arena.
The Pantherettes (28-1, 9-0 in 5-5A) made all eight of their attempts with solo first place in District 5-5A hanging in the balance. Cedar Hill went only 3-of-7 from the line.
Point guard Morgan Bolton was especially clutch for the hosts, converting six in the fourth quarter.
“I kept thinking about the advice my dad gave me, concentrating when you are tired,’’ said Bolton, a 5-foot-5 senior who finished with 14 points. “Cedar Hill was trying to get momentum and we were trying to keep that from happening.’’
Duncanville coach Cathy Self-Morgan said Bolton is like having another coach on the floor.
“Morgan keeps everyone together,’’ Self-Morgan said. “She is like an offensive lineman in football, underappreciated.’’
Cedar Hill (22-6, 7-2) crept within six points in the final minute, but Bolton broke free for a lay-up to rule out the type of winning rally the Lady Longhorns made two seasons ago in the same gym. That comeback win spurred Cedar Hill to a state Final Four appearance.
Not capitalizing on free throws forced Cedar Hill to settle for four points on a potential seven-point possession early the fourth quarter when Duncanville led by nine. Candice Adams was fouled in the act of sinking a shot and Self-Morgan was assessed a technical foul when the foul was reported. Adams missed her free throw and Courtni Gibson missed both technical foul shots. Gibson, who led Cedar Hill with 12 points, came back to make two free throws on the end of the extra technical foul possession.
“We made too many mental mistakes and I count missed free throws as mental mistakes,’’ said Cedar Hill coach Andrea Robinson. “Free throws killed us.’’
Duncanville won the first meeting of the teams in Cedar Hill, 53-30, but the Lady Longhorns were without two starting guards that December night.
“I knew this would be a tough game,’’ Self-Morgan said. “Duncanville-Cedar Hill games usually are. We got lackadaisical in the second quarter when we lost the lead. In the second half, we picked up our defense and made it harder for them to get the ball inside.’’
Junior forward Kiara Perry led Duncanville (No. 2 in the ESPNDallas.com Class 5A Top 10) with 21 points and three blocked shots. Senior Empress Davenport, a Texas signee, had 10 points, including a big 3-pointer at the start of the fourth quarter, and a team-high six rebounds.
For No. 7 Cedar Hill, 6-foot forward LaBrittney Jones scored 10 points and had 13 rebounds.
Said Robinson: “When we limit our mistakes, we’re one of the best teams in the state. We’d love another shot at them.’’
Cedar Hill boys 36, Duncanville boys 34: The Longhorns (18-8, 6-1 in District 5-5A) held off a final flurry from the Panthers (12-13, 4-3).
Duncanville freshman guard Matthew McQuaid’s 3-pointer for the lead in the final seconds came off the rim. Teammate Tyler Lonzie rebounded and rimmed out a follow that that would have tied the game. Duncanville’s Omar Sherman, flat on his back, rebounded and called a timeout with 2.95 seconds remaining.
Cedar Hill’s Charles Wesley clinched the win with a steal of the inbound pass.
After Devontae Bailey’s 3-pointer with 2:45 remaining tied the score at 34, Brandon Harris and Charlie Middleton each hit one of two free throws in the final two minutes to account for the winning margin.
Junior guard Jalen Jones led all scorers with 17 points for Cedar Hill, No. 8 in the ESPNDallas.com Class 5A Top 10. Sherman topped Duncanville with 10.