The Aledo Bearcats and Ladycats basketball teams fought to hold on to their perfect records against other district teams as the first half of district play winds down.
On Jan. 7, the varsity teams faced the Granbury Pirates.
Coming off an 81-20 win the weekend before, Coach Mike Pinkerton said the Ladycats usually faced stiff competition in the Lady Pirates.
But with a sudden burst in defense – forcing more than 35 turnovers – the Ladycats took control of the game early with a 20-6 lead in just the first quarter, led by junior Justis Sczcepanski, who finished the game with 14 points, and Megan Wood, who led the whole team with 16 points.
The girls slowed down slightly in the second quarter when the Pirates matched them almost basket for basket. But the Ladycats cruised again in the third and fourth quarters, when they led by as much as 29 points, before winning 53-27.
That win made them 6-0 in district play and 17-3 overall this season. Despite the good record, Pinkerton said there is always room for improvement.
"The goal of every practice is to get better," Pinkerton said. "And the goal of every game is to play better."
The Ladycats’ game against the Trimble Tech Lady Bulldogs gave them another chance to play better, but it took a lot more effort.
"It was a tough one," Pinkerton said of the game, admitting that they weren’t quite at their best. "Trimble Tech’s a really talented, really tough team."
But after trailing the entire game at Trimble’s home court and making some adjustments at half, the Ladycats surged back to win 48-44.
While playing a man defense in the first half, the Ladycats switched to a zone and began to rebound better in the second half, which Pinkerton says turned the tide of the game.
"It was a battle," Pinkerton described the hard-fought win that made them 7-0 in district, exactly halfway through their district games.
Trimble’s defense especially tried to shut down Alyssa Dry, but she still finished the game with 21 points.
Justis Sczcepanski had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
"Everybody played hard," Pinkerton said. "They just never gave up."
The Bearcats also played the Granbury Pirates on Jan. 7, but their win did not come as easily. For Coach Steve Smith, pressure came not just because of the important district game but because they were playing a school he formerly coached.
The teams exchanged the lead in the first quarter until the Pirates finished it with a one point lead. That lead increased to four by the half, but in the third quarter the Bearcats caught up once more as the teams spent much of the quarter tied.
The Bearcats lost their one-point lead going into the fourth quarter and trailed by six before a 9-0 run gave them the lead and eventually a 41-37 win.
"You’re gonna have games like that," Smith said. "I think they’re character builders and they’re character revealers."
Smith said he was proud of the team for their endurance in a tough game against a tough opponent. He said their seniors especially stepped up, scoring 14 of the fourth quarter’s 15 points.
Senior Carl Williams led the team with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Seniors Alex Stockdale – seven points and 12 rebounds – and Matt Dunn with nine points also contributed to the win.
Junior Nicholas Losos came off the bench for 10 points and three rebounds. Losos and Stockdale, both playing center, combined for 17 points and 15 rebounds.
With that strength on the inside, Smith said their team will be hard to beat.
With their win Tuesday, the Bearcats entered Friday’s home game against the Trimble Tech Bulldogs with a 4-0 record in district and the mindset of protecting that perfect record.
But it was broken up when the Bearcats lost 48-46 in another game that was decided in the final seconds.
The Bearcats got off to a slow, 0-8 start, but after the first half, Smith said they made an adjustment to their defense, doing better at shutting down one of the Bulldogs key players.
"I was really proud of the kids’ effort," Smith said.
Despite losing by as much as 10 points at times during the game, the Bearcats came back to within one point, but with less than half a minute remaining the Bearcats were again trailing. Dakota Fischer then made a basket and got Aledo within three points.
They still trailed by three when a jump ball was called in the Bearcats favor with only .01 seconds on the clock. Smith appealed for a little more time since the clock had run some after the whistle, so they were given just .02 seconds.
Trimble Bulldogs and fans responded negatively, with a technical being called on the Bulldogs when players used foul language and approached the Bearcats’ bench, almost leading to a fight.
Carl Williams – who for a second game in a row was the lead scorer with nine points – went 1 for 2 at the line but the fraction of a second remaining in the game wasn’t enough for them to gain the lead.
"I told the guys we didn’t lose the game, we ran out of time," Smith said.
Despite the loss, Smith said the game was still a step in the right direction since they were playing the team he considers the best in their district.
Smith also expressed appreciation to the large home crowd that came out to support them, most on their feet cheering them on in the final minutes.