Led by a strong defense and a fundamentally sound team effort on offense, the Ball High Lady Tors topped the Manvel Lady Mavericks, 47-38, at home Friday night in a showdown to likely determine the District 23-5A championship.
Should Ball High (14-1 in district) take care of business 7 p.m. Tuesday at Fort Bend Marshall, the team will clinch the second-ever outright district championship for girls basketball in the school’s long history. The 2015 team were outright champs, and the 1984 Lady Tors won a co-district title.
“I’ve been incredibly blessed with players who are happy to work hard and are very coachable,” Ball High head coach Amanda King said.
Ball High got off to a shaky start, but afterward controlled much of the game. After Manvel leapt out to a 6-1 lead, the Lady Tors went on an 8-1 run to put themselves in front.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been prone to slow starts a few times in our career as a team,” King said. “If you have a rhythm, sticking to that rhythm is sometimes better than trying to match someone else’s rhythm.”
The Lady Tors put the finishing touches on the run with an offensive rebound and pretty pass by Lexie LaForte (two points, five rebounds) to Kaila Lee (nine points, four rebounds) for an open layup, and then another great pass, this time from Bebe Galloway (11 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks), that set up another easy Lee layup.
Following a basket by Manvel’s McKinzie Green (15 points) that knotted the score at 9-9, Ball High closed out the first quarter with six unanswered points.
Manvel started out the second quarter with a hot hand, going on an 8-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Green, to take a 17-16 lead.
After Ball High went nearly half the second quarter scoreless, Nina Kovach (nine points, two blocks) fired back with a mid-range jumper, and Ball High outscored the Lady Mavs, 8-1, to take a 24-17 lead into the halftime break.
Manvel closed the gap to trail just 33-30 with 2:28 left in the third quarter, but Ball High responded with a 7-2 run — highlighted by a nice assist by Galloway to LaForte for an open layup and an unorthodox but effective 3-point shot by Lee — to take a 40-32 lead into the final frame, where the Lady Tors’ lockdown defense kept the Lady Mavs at bay.
A steal and layup by Green cut Ball High’s lead to 42-38, but Ari Smith (16 points, 11 rebounds) answered with a slick teardrop layup, and Manvel could not get enough open looks to mount a comeback.
The Lady Tors mainly kept a lid on Manvel’s normally high-scoring guard Green thanks to a superb defensive performance by Kovach.
“Nina is absolutely the hardest worker on defense, and we knew that we were going to have to put someone on 23 that could really contain her,” King said. “Nina does an amazing job. She’s very intuitive. She knows when she needs to push harder or back off.”
King also was pleased with the fact that every player on the court — not just the big three of Galloway, Kovach and Smith — was able to step up in a big way at certain points in the game.
“Playing as a team was one of our biggest assets tonight,” King said. “I think there’s a perception that you can shut us down by shutting down one player, two players, three players. And, that’s possible with some teams, but that’s not possible with this team because we’ll find the open girl, and we will hit her, and she will score.”
Ball High did tremendous work on the boards, as well, out-rebounding Manvel, 34-24.