KHS girls basketball

Kilgore's Lady Bulldogs (in white, with number 2 Alexis D. Anderson up front) beat both Henderson and Spring Hill over the weekend in Winona to earn the final UIL Class 4A playoff spot in District 16. Kilgore visits Pleasant Grove in Texarkana for a first-round game tonight at 6 p.m. Sabine, winners of six straight, will play Elysian Fields in the first round of the 3A girls playoffs on Tuesday night at 6 at Longview High School. The regular season concludes tomorrow night for boys high school basketball teams. (Photo by MITCH LUCAS)

Tonight, the Kilgore High School girls basketball team will try to kick it into gear one more time and knock off an East Texas basketball power.

Then tomorrow night, Sabine’s Lady Cardinals will try to extend their season in Longview.

Kilgore, who had to win a three-way tiebreaker to get the last playoff spot in District 16-4A, will visit Pleasant Grove in Texarkana tonight at 6 p.m., a true home game for PG, who has won 53 games the last two seasons.

The season is over, of course, for the loser; the winner would move on to the second round to face either Van or Farmersville.

Pleasant Grove, coached by Marsha Cowling, is 25-4 this season and has been off since last Tuesday’s regular season finale. They’re 11-1 at home this year, where they’ll host Kilgore tonight, and they’ve won eight straight games. Kilgore and Pleasant Grove did not play this year in the regular season.

PG hasn’t lost a district game since fall, 2017; they went 28-4 last season, and got to the fourth round of the playoffs, losing to Dallas Lincoln.

The last few days have been a whirlwind for coach Trushundra McGill’s Lady Bulldogs, but they’ve played their best games all season. Kilgore was charged with the task of getting through Henderson and Spring Hill to get to this playoff game.

The three teams, all tied after the end of the regular season, agreed to meet in Winona on Friday night and on Saturday for a three-team round-robin to see who would get the fourth and final spot in 16-4A. Spring Hill won the toss and the right to play the second night, leaving Kilgore and Henderson to play on Friday – winner keeps going, season over for the loser.

And the loser was Henderson. Kilgore made sure of it, dealing the Lady Lions a 53-28 defeat. That’s a little incredible, considering Henderson had won both games of the regular season series. But KHS stepped up its game in a big way. Miah Thomas had 34 points, a career high, and also had 15 rebounds and three assists. Jada Abercrombie had 13 points and 16 rebounds.

That set up another rematch, this one with Spring Hill, back in Winona on Saturday night. And Kilgore left no doubt in that one, either.

The Lady ‘Dogs beat Spring Hill, 45-19, and Thomas picked up where she left off against Henderson. Kilgore jumped out to an 8-0 lead against the Lady Panthers, all of it Thomas. She finished with 12 points, all in the first half, but also had 11 rebounds, four steals and four assists.

Spring Hill stayed with Kilgore for the first quarter, but simply could not keep up offensively. Kilgore played swarming defense, and Spring Hill only had five first-half points, all by Ashlee Blake, and all in that first quarter – the Lady Panthers didn’t score at all in the second, and Kilgore led, 26-5, at the half.

Both teams played somewhat sloppily in the second half, but Kilgore held SHHS to under 20. Blake ended up being the leading scorer for the Lady Panthers and didn’t score in the second half.

Kilgore has two players named Alexis Anderson – Alexis “AM” Anderson and Alexis “AT” Anderson – and both played well. “AM” had 11 points, six rebounds, an assist and a steal, and “AT” had four points and nine rebounds.

Abercrombie had nine points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks, and Ny’Kayla Hooper, who missed much of the second half due to an injury, had four points, three rebounds and a steal, even while in foul trouble.

KeKe Roy had three points, and Skye Cotton had two points and two rebounds.

Sabine: Coach Sara Cantrell’s Lady Cardinals had a four-day period in mid-January that was a gut-check for the entire team.

And then they passed it.

Sabine, rolling through District 16-3A at the time and blasting kids on the court, had just gone to 7-0 in district play with a 71-22 thrashing of Winona in a Sabine home game Jan. 14. The Lady Cardinals were clearly the class of the district and feeling no pain.

But then came a trip to White Oak, a 48-45 loss, and then a trip to Harmony, a 41-31 loss that few saw coming. Suddenly, what looked like a sure thing looked iffy.

Cantrell challenged her team to dust themselves off and get back in the thick of things, and they did – in a big way. Sabine beat West Rusk by nearly 30 the next game and then didn’t lose again in the regular season, finishing the scheduled season with six straight wins, and the final one? A 53-46 revenge win at home against White Oak.

Now, the Lady Cardinals, whose volleyball season was a win-total record-setter but was disappointing because it ended so soon, have a second chance at playoff success on the court. They face Elysian Fields on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at Longview High School. The loser is out, but the winner advances to the second round to take on either Mount Pleasant Chapel Hill or DeKalb.

Sabine beat Elysian Fields, 51-38, back on Dec. 31 at SHS.

Kilgore, Sabine, West Rusk boys: As for the boys basketball teams at both of these schools and at West Rusk, Sabine’s Cardinals are currently in third place in the four-team playoff hunt in 16-3A, and can lock it up with a win at West Rusk on Tuesday, the regular season finale for both. The Raiders aren’t out of it – they can get in, as well. Junior varsity starts things at 5 p.m. tomorrow night, and varsity right after.

Kilgore, coached by Jeff Coleman, was off on Friday night and finishes its regular season Tuesday night in Henderson, also starting with the JV game at 5. The Bulldogs can take second place in 16-4A into the playoffs with a win at district-leading Henderson, although a tie with Chapel Hill for second is an outside possibility.

The playoffs for boys basketball begin early next week.


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