With first place on the line, Pleasant Grove’s boys and girls both let Liberty-Eylau know Friday night that Hawk Gym is their house.
Both squads stayed unbeaten in 14-4A play. The girls now own wins over all five district foes after a 65-62 battle that was closer than it sounds. The boys’ game was less dramatic: The Hawks moved to 3-0 in district by cruising to an 82-62 win that was not as close as it sounds.
All four squads came into the night unbeaten in district.
Lady Hawks 65, L-E 62
The girls’ game was a knuckle biter that wasn’t settled until Shanequa Henry stole the ball with 15 seconds remaining, moments after the Lady Leopards stole the ball at midcourt and were driving for the final bucket with a three-on-two advantage.
Henry whipped the ball downcourt to Monique Walker, who put in an easy layup, drew a foul and completed the three-point-play for the final margin.
The Lady Leopards and coach Aquanetta Watson immediately circled Feb. 6 on their calendars, when the two teams will meet at L-E in the final game of the regular season, and it may be the one to settle the district title before both teams head out and make noise in the playoffs.
The two teams met Dec. 9 in the championship game of New Boston’s Gunslinger tournament. PG took that one, 47-38, and Watson’s senior-dominated team looked determined to avenge that loss Friday night in Hawk Gym.
“We started slowly. It took us a while to get going and you can’t do that against a team like PG,” Watson said. “They’re a great team and well-coached.
“If we had started the game hustling like we were at the end, that game is ours,” she said.
PG coach Jason Boston didn’t necessarily disagree.
“Coach Watson does a very good job,” he said. “We just kept battling. We talked a lot about keeping it to a two-possession game.”
That’s what happened. Walker’s play game the Lady Hawks a five-point lead and the luxury of allowing Taylor Crabtree an uncontested layup at the buzzer for her 20th point, the team high. Eliyah Howard finished with 8, and Derrica Henderson 6 for the L-E.
Pleasant Grove was led by senior Madeline Haak, who led all scorers with 21. She was nine of 10 from the free-throw line, including six-of-six with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. Walker had 17 points, including a three-pointer and hit five of six from the line, all in the second half. Henry added 16.
The largest lead of the night came just before halftime when the Lady Hawks finished the second quarter with a 9-2 run. Henry started it with a nice fake at the top of the key and a drive to the basket for the bucket.
A few moments later, Abby Hines hit Walker for the open jumper. After Haak hit a shot with 30 seconds left, Macy Young came up with a steal and fed the ball to Henry for the layup to send the Hawks into the locker room up, 36-28.
The Lady Leopards erased that lead in the opening minutes of the third quarter and briefly pulled ahead, 44-42, at the 4:05 mark.
“We had used a 1-2-2 defense to great effect in the first half, and apparently coach Watson talked to her team about that at halftime,” Boston said. “We went back to our regular defense real quick.
“That was a battle of two playoff teams,” he added. “I was real impressed with them.”
Hawks 82, L-E 62
Pleasant Grove was not listed in the Texas Association of Basketball Rankings top 25 4A teams this week, and one has to wonder what the coaches are thinking.
The Hawks’ size, speed, and depth were more than the athletic but outmanned Leopards could handle.
Even with stellar big man Xavier Benson out in Lubbock tending to his pending football scholarship with Texas Tech, the Hawks led from the opening tipoff to the final buzzer, holding comfortable leads most of the way and blowing the game open with a 15-5 run to open the fourth quarter.
Kameron Woods set the tone with a nothing-but-net three-pointer to the open the game, and PG led the rest of the way. That play was followed moments later by a typical sequence: Freshman big Landon Jackson swats away a shot, Woods quickly moves it down the court and hits Aaron Harmon for the open two-pointer.
It went that way all night. Jackson had three blocks, his older brother, sophomore Layton Jackson, had one plus some nice moves underneath to pick up seven points. The third big, senior June Heo made it impossible to drive the paint and added a bucket.
Three Hawks hit double figures. Noah Fawbush led all scorers with 18 points, Woods and Harmon each had 17. Two other Harmon brothers made important contributions. Luke had six points, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer to close the first half, and Ben had four. At one point, all three Harmons were on the floor.
“Pleasant Grove is tough because they are fundamentally sound,” said L-E coach Stasik Vaughn. “And they’re big.”
PG coach Billy Brewer was pleased with his team’s effort.
“We played great on both ends of the court, on offense and defense,” he said. “We’ve been trying to get that accomplished for some time and tonight we did it.”
Despite a 53-42 halftime lead, Brewer challenged his team to do better in the third quarter.
“We haven’t been very effective in the third quarter, and we talked about that,” he said. “They all agreed to it, and they came out and played like champions.
“We have so many good players on this team, and they’re starting to jell,” he said.
The boys (16-4, 3-0) and girls (16-6, 5-0) will travel to Paris Tuesday night to take on North Lamar.