LINDALE —John Tyler tracked down Lindale from far back, but lacked the finishing touch to pull ahead.
Thanks to a big head start, scoring the game’s first five points and opening the fourth period on a 10-0 run, Lindale escaped John Tyler for a 71-68 win in the District 16-4A girls’ basketball opener Friday.
Lindale never trailed, thanks to Tiaka Lee’s missed 3-point attempt from halfcourt at the buzzer to try and force overtime.
With sophomore forward Amia Wickware leading the charge, JT heated up to score 20 points over the final 3:33, but played catchup the whole night after missing 13 free throws — four over the final 47 seconds — and shooting 29 percent for the night.
After finishing second in district the previous two years, JT (15-9) finds itself back in chase mode.
“It hurts,” JT coach Mike Smith said after the close loss. “It’s a bitter pill to swallow. But they’re good and I congratulate (Lindale) on the win.”
Lindale (16-4) used big games from fellow 6-2 junior posts Zhanelle Geathers (20 points, four steals) and Natasha Malone (13 points, 14 rebounds) to pull through. Senior guard Neeley Doss delivered 15 points to spark Lindale’s perimeter attack.
Lindale led by 15 points after Hannah Malone’s steal and layup made it 63-48 with 3:50 left.
Wickware netted a game-high 21 points and 16 rebounds to lead JT (15-9).
JT drained four 3-pointers and three free throws, and Wickware scored twice directly off steals to get the Lady Lions within three of Lindale, 70-67, with 19 seconds left. JT received two chances to tie, the first after Lee drew the fifth foul on Lindale’s Symonne Brookins while attempting a trey. Lee missed the front and back end of the three free throw attempts, leaving JT two points behind (70-68).
Lindale added a free throw from Makenna Allen with four seconds left, and Lee’s 47-footer fell way short as time expired.
“You can’t let up on them,” said first-year Lindale head coach Brandon Walters, who led Llano to the state championship game in 2007 prior to a brief retirement. “They’re so athletic and they have speed across the board. I’m proud we beat a formidable team.”
JT scored half its points (34) from beyond the arc and the 3-point line going against a Lindale team with a pair of six-footers patrolling the paint.
“Early on our size was a factor,” added Walters, whose team played a 1-3-1 zone the entire way except for the final few possessions. “We did a good job stopping penetration.”
Lindale scored the first five points after Doss sunk a trey and Geathers scored off an inside move. Lindale kept a five-point lead the rest of the first half, and carried a 51-46 advantage into the final period.
The Lady Eagles erupted for 10 straight points to start the fourth and held the Lady Lions scoreless for 3:38. JT turned up its defensive pressure and shots started to fall to turn the game around.
“Unbelievable,” Smith said while describing the finish against a Lindale team he coached in the past. “We knew we had to press and we knew we could play like that. It was do or die time. They decided they were going to do it. We came within (two) free throws of doing it.”
Lindale 71, John Tyler 68
John Tyler10 18 18 22— 68
Lindale 17 17 17 20— 71
JOHN TYLER — Ashtyn Beal, 9; Tiaka Lee, 12; Tameal Jones, 5; Quaneshia Johnson, 8; Keyana Tatum, 0; Amia Wickware, 21; Donishia Rouege, 0; Nola Jackson, 7; Kayla Webb, 6. FG 22-78 FT 19-32.
LINDALE — Paige Murphy, 2; Hannah Malone, 9; Natasha Malone, 13; Symonne Brookins, 8; Neeley Doss, 15; Ashley Lacy, 0; Makenna Allen, 4; Zhanelle Geathers, 20. FG 25-54. FT 18-34.
Three-Point Goals — JT: 5-29 (Johnson 2, Beal, Jones, Wickware); L: 3-10 (Doss 3). Rebounds — JT: 51 (Wickware 16); Lindale 48 (N. Malone 14). Assists — JT: 9 (Beal, Lee 2); L: 16 (H. Malone, Geathers, 4). Blocks — JT: 3 (Wickware 2); L: 5 (H. Malone, N. Malone, Doss, Lacy, Geathers). Steals — JT: 11 (Johnson 4); L: 10 (Geathers 4). Turnovers — JT: 17; L: 22. Total Fouls — JT: 24; L: 23. Fouled Out — JT: Jones, Johnson; L: Murphy, Malone, Brookins.
FRESHMEN SCORE — John Tyler 36, Lindale 35.
JV SCORE — John Tyler 37, Lindale 31.
RECORDS — John Tyler 15-9 (0-1); Lindale 16-4 (1-0).
NEXT UP — Jacksonville at John Tyler, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.