In a game that had people from both communities show up in a frenzy, the Nocona Lady Indians were able to secure an un-shared district title on their rival Bowie’s home court on Tuesday.
In a low scoring defensive struggle that saw the Lady Rabbits lead for most of the game, the Lady Indians were able to come out ahead 38-34.
The stakes coming into the game could not have been higher. With Bowie one game back in the standings, a Lady Rabbit win would mean the teams would share the district title along with Childress.
Fans came out of the woodwork as Bowie’s student section was easily the most energetic it has been all season, ready at any moment to shout the cliché, but effective “You can’t do that” chant on every foul call.
As if things could not have been more high stakes, the Lady Rabbits were missing head coach Chuck Hall from the sidelines on Tuesday for unspecified reasons. Assistant Coach Jaimie Hickey assumed the role as head coach in the team’s biggest game of the year. Also it was senior night.
Both teams came out and knocked in three-pointers in the first minute and half to start the game, but soon the game settled into a slow pace that Bowie favors.
Nocona’s Averee Kleinhans was able to push the ball in transition to get some baskets and to the free throw line, but opportunities were few and far between for her.
The Lady Rabbits try to work from inside out, which usually means getting the ball to leading scorer Hope Howard, and going from there. The Lady Indians made sure Howard had no where to go for most of the game after she caught the ball in the post. At some points three defenders would closer her off forcing her to pass out.
Nocona’s plan of running the offense through Kleinhans while her and Trystin Fenoglio shared ball handling duties, Bowie tried to take away Fenoglio. They left Aslyn Davis on Kleinhans for most of the game to make her earn every point and limit her playmaking opportunities.
Both of these defensive approaches worked for the most part. Kleinhans scored eight of the teams 10 points while the Jackrabbits got a smattering of scoring from three players while controlling the tempo. Nocona led 10-9 heading into the second quarter.
Bowie came out in a press defense to start the second quarter. While it did not force many turnovers, it did enough to disrupt the Lady Indians offense for most of the quarter. They invited Kleinhans to shoot and would have a defender there to contest every shot or bring help on her drives to the basket. Nocona was limited to six points in the quarter.
Offensively, the Lady Rabbits continued to grind out possessions with long sequences of passing. Baskets from four different players from a variety of different spots on the court, including another three-pointer, allowed Bowie to take a small 19-16 lead at halftime.
For the large majority of the third quarter, it was all the Lady Rabbits. Everyone on Bowie’s side from the players on the bench to the crowd cheered every good thing that happened. For a mostly defensive team that has had its issues during the season scoring the ball, some games energy and enthusiasm has been lacking, but there was no excuse for it Tuesday night.
The defense continued to frustrate Kleinhans while shutting everyone else out, while the offense scored in big ways. The Lady Rabbits established the biggest lead of the game 29-19, punctuated with two three-pointers and the ref warning Kleinhans about her almost drawing a technical foul. With the crowd going crazy and the low scoring nature of the game, the lead seemed like it might be too much for the Lady Indians to overcome.
With less than two minutes to go in the third quarter, Kleinhans was subbed out so she could regain her composure. In her place Fenoglio was able to score back-to-back quick baskets with driving floaters to cut what seemed like a near insurmountable lead 10 point lead a few minutes ago to 29-23 heading into the fourth quarter.
The teams traded baskets in the opening quarter as Howard scored inside and Fenoglio made another floater. Kleinhans checked back in and Nocona was able to cut the lead to one basket 31-28 with a little less than four minutes to go.
Bowie tried to run some clock on its next two possessions, but both possessions ended with turnovers. The Lady Indians cut the lead to one point 31-30 with 1:45 to go. With her team in the bonus, Kleinhans knocked in two free throws to give Nocona its first lead since the second quarter 32-31.
The Lady Rabbits had a chance to take back the lead seconds later with a one-and-one free throw attempt, but missed the first shot. Kleinhans was sent back to the free throw line and again made both attempts to increase Nocona’s lead to 34-31 with 1:11 to go.
Bowie’s Taygon Jones was fouled and despite being a freshman, she coolly knocked in both free throws to cut the lead to 34-33 with 57 seconds left. The Lady Rabbits then tried to force a turnover with their press, but ended up having to foul Fenoglio with 34 seconds left.
Fenoglio was able to make both free throws to put the lead back up to 36-33. Bowie drew a shooting foul with 21 seconds left, but unfortunately for them could not make either shot. The Lady Rabbits Jayci Logan was able to secure the offensive rebound and Bowie got off a potential game tying three-pointer that missed the basket.
Nocona got the rebound and Kleinhans was able to make her next two free throws with eight seconds left to ice the game. The Lady Indians won 38-34.
To read the full story, pick up a copy of the weekend edition of the Bowie News.