The Nocona Lady Indians were able to brush off a rough start to beat Merkel on Thursday night in the area round of the playoffs.
The Lady Indians made up a 15 point deficit in the second quarter to ultimately win 48-36 against the Lady Badgers.
Nocona came into the game with a lot of confidence and the favorites. The Lady Indians last loss came in early December and the team is ranked 13th in the most recent state poll.
Merkel was coming into the game looking for some revenge. In both 2019 and 2020 the Lady Badgers had lost to Nocona in the area round.
The district runner-ups were led by senior Alyssa O’Malley who is committed to Texas A&M-Kingsville. She was the focal point for a lot of the Lady Indians game plan heading into the game.
For whatever reason, Nocona did not start the game well for the second straight game. Unlike in its bi-district game against Eastland, this slow start showed clearly on the scoreboard.
The Lady Badgers trapping zone that was geared towards the perimeter seemed to make the Lady Indians hesitant to attack for whatever reason on offense. Shots that were thrown up were just not going in the basket in the first quarter.
On the other end, O’Malley and teammate Kyleigh Mauldin were finding each other with smart cuts off the ball. Merkel’s confidence continued to grow the longer Nocona went without scoring, taking advantage of some turnovers to score in transition and go up 10-0.
The Lady Indians first basket came with less than two minutes to play in the first quarter, but it did not spark things. The Lady Badgers finished the quarter on a 6-1 run as they led 16-3 heading into the second quarter.
Early on, Merkel’s lead peaked at 18-3 and things looked bleak unless Nocona’s offense would wake up.
Thankfully the Lady Indians’ defense found a new level after getting burned on some off ball movement in the first quarter. Raylee Sparkman drew the assignment to shadow/deny O’Malley the ball and she along with her teammates did a better job defending her the rest of the quarter.
Still Nocona was down 18-5 midway through the quarter despite already being in the bonus for drawing fouls. The team had found limited opportunities to push the ball in transition and girls still seemed hesitant attack the rim thanks to Merkel’s physical play and active hands.
That all changed in the two minutes.
Guards Megyn Meekins and Skyler Smith started getting into the paint and scoring, whether off of transition opportunities thanks to improved defense or just finding the soft spot for floaters.
Nocona went on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 18-14 with a little less than two minutes to play. Eventually the Lady Indians took the lead 19-18 in the final second as a 3-pointer from Reagan Phipps went in.
Merkel did tie the score up 19-19 on a free throw in the final seconds before halftime, but the momentum had fully swung the Lady Indians way by that point.
The third quarter was the most competitive of the game.
Nocona got the lead early and led for most of the time. More players got in on the scoring action as five different players made at least one basket.
Merkel was not just laying down to quit though. After that long scoring drought in the second quarter, the team kept within one basket of Nocona for most of the third quarter.
O’Malley was still proving tough to contain as she scored six of her team’s 10 points. At one point the Lady Badgers even took back the lead 28-26 late in the quarter.
Nocona closed out the quarter well on a 7-1 run to go up 33-28 heading into the fourth quarter.
At some point in the third quarter the Lady Indians switched Meekins onto O’Malley to give Sparkman a break and for a different look.
Merkel cut Nocona’s lead back to one basket with a 3-pointer early in the quarter. The game’s pace slowed down in the fourth quarter as the Lady Indians were quick to look for a reason to start stalling the ball.
Up 39-34 with 4:06 left to play, Nocona started to run clock. Unfortunately, it led to steal and layup for the Lady Badgers that cut the lead to 39-36.
Another turnover gave Merkel an opportunity to get even closer, but the team missed on its possession. That would be as close as the Lady Badgers got.
Following a time out, Merkel tried to employ a full-court press, but Meekins broke through and was able to get all the way to the basket for a layup to up the lead to 41-36.
The defense held from there on out and Nocona forced the Lady Badgers to send players to the free throw line to save time.
The lead continued to grow as the Lady Indians made 7-8 of the free throws down the stretch while continuing to shut down Merkel on defense.
The Lady Badgers were dealt the final blow as O’Malley fouled out with 1:21 left in the game and Nocona up 10 points.
The Lady Indians made two more free throws as they won 48-36.
To read the full story, pick up a copy of the weekend edition of the Bowie News.
Basketball games rescheduled to Saturday
With the weekly icy weather in Montague County knocking out school almost all week, Tuesday varsity basketball games were moved to the weekend since the games were too important to cancel this late into the season.
For Bowie, the game hosting Henrietta is scheduled for Feb. 4, with the varsity girls game starting at 11 a.m. and the boys following at 12:30 p.m. There will be no junior varsity games.
At Nocona, the teams are hosting Seymour on Nov. 4. The Lady Indians’ game is scheduled to start at noon and the boy’s game will follow at 1:30 p.m. There will be no junior varsity games.
Gold-Burg is hosting Forestburg on Feb. 4. There will be only varsity games with the girl’s scheduled to start at 10 a.m. and the boy’s following at 11:30 a.m.
Later in the day, Prairie Valley varsity basketball teams will travel to play at Midway on Feb. 4. The girl’s game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. and the boy’s game will follow at 5:30 p.m.
Bellevue basketball teams also will be on the road later in the day on Feb. 4. The Eagles travel to play Slidell with the girl’s game scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. and the boy’s game playing afterwards at 6 p.m.
Saint Jo Boys Interview
Interview with Saint Jo basketball players Kile Thurman (left) and Collin Thomas following their win against Gold-Burg on Jan. 27, 2023.
Saint Jo Girls Interview
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