Up by as many as 19 points early, the Richland Rebels withstood a furious second-half comeback bid to beat Keller Fossil Ridge 49-48 in a Friday semifinal at the Boswell Holiday Classic.
Richland (10-7) meets Hurst L.D. Bell (14-1) in the championship game at 3 p.m. Saturday at Saginaw Boswell.
“When you work hard to build that kind of lead, that’s when you just have to grow up and finish the game,” said Richland coach Kenya Landers, who is in her first year at the helm.
The Rebels watched as the lead they had fought to build slowly slipped away in the second half.
Fossil Ridge guard Madison Crawford led the surge, scoring 12 of her 16 points in the second half, but missed free throws proved to be the Lady Panthers’ undoing. They were just 3 of 10 from the line in the final quarter of play.
The Lady Rebels, who list five sophomores and a freshman on their 12-player roster, were led by Lexi Bartlett’s 24 points, 13 of which came in Richland’s 25-point second quarter.
But it was the slightly built, 5-foot-3 sophomore point guard Destiny Winkfield whose late game clutch play made the difference.
“I don’t have any fear,” said Winkfield, who looks closer to 5-foot-even when standing next to her teammates. “I know my skill level and what I can do, so I don’t let bigger people intimidate me.”
The tiny point guard came up big in the final minute of play, converting a steal into a layup and connecting on two free throws to seal the win.
“She’s going to be a key player for us all year,” Landers said. “By the time she’s a junior and senior she’s going to be something pretty special.”
Winkfield, who had a team-high 17 points in the Lady Rebels’ quarterfinal game against Boswell earlier in the day, finished with 13 points in the win.
“I told my team after the game ‘It’s a lot better to learn a lesson and still get the win,’ ” Landers said. “[Richland] has played for third place in this tournament the last three years, so to be able to play for the championship tomorrow is definitely a step in the right direction.”
• Hurst L.D. Bell 64, Abilene 26: The Blue Raiders (14-1) rolled to a dominating semifinal win over the Eagles (15-5) to advance to the championship game .
Abilene senior Shambriel Hunter did her best to keep the Eagles close, scoring 10 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, but Bell’s size and speed were simply too much.
Bell jumped out to a 26-3 lead after one quarter of play and put it on cruise control the rest of the way. Eight of the 11 Lady Raiders managed points in the win, with senior forward Sheridan Pilcher leading all scorers with 16.
The Raiders won the Boswell title in 2012.
• Fossil Ridge advances: Fossil Ridge won its Friday morning quarterfinal game via a coin flip over district rival Haltom. The two teams are scheduled to play a District 4-5A game at Haltom on Jan. 3 and decided to flip a coin to determine the tournament outcome, preferring to wait until district play to face each other.
• Abilene 50, Keller Timber Creek 44: Abilene overcame a sloppy first half, scoring 24 points in the final quarter to beat Keller Timber Creek. Allison Stokes led the Lady Eagles with 14 points, all of which came in the second half.
• Richland 45, Boswell 40: Winkfield scored a game-high 17 points
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