SHARYLAND -- The Lady Rattlers really needed this one.
Seeking a sole district championship since 2002, all Sharyland had to do was win its final two games. Well, Friday night was not so sweet to the Rattlers as they fell to two-time defending champ McAllen Memorial 52-39.
The twelve point loss was closer than the final score would indicate however. Though the Lady Rattlers (19-12, 9-2) did trail most of the game, Memorial (16-15, 9-2) had to earn every point it got and withstand their opponent's multiple rallies.
The Mustang's Tayler Stanton was the thorn in the side and the nail in Shary's coffin. The outstanding guard poured in 20 points from three-pointers, driving floaters and fast break layups.
However, it was the Lady Rattlers who got on the board first. Savannah Prichard would hit two free throws to giver her team an early 2-0 lead.
Memorial countered by enacting a full-court press that initially frustrated Shary, forcing some early turnovers. However, the girls settled down behind Prichard's strong dribble. As a result the team began to match the road team point for point behind jump shots from Chelsea Cole and Ashley Gonzalez to take a 10-9 lead.
Then Stanton began to work her magic.
In the ensuring quarter, Sharyland head coach Dale Whitaker twisted his defensive plan by frequently changing from a man defense to a zone. The team's most athletic player, Cole, was placed on Stanton when in man. In the zone, the entire team had at least an eye on her.
In terms of stopping Stanton, the strategy worked. However, the Mustang teammates picked up the slack, as they helped the team take a commanding 22-11 lead.
However, Prichard and Cole would step up their overall games to help the Rattlers get back into it. The two leaders played tough, as Prichard got some key steals and Cole come down with key offensive rebounds. The effort landed the two at the free throw constantly, allowing the girls to get back into the game. In fact, Sharyland would score eight straight points from line to pull the score within three at 22-19.
Though Memorial would finally score, Prichard again came up big with less than two minutes. Inbounding the pass at the baseline, Prichard found Clarissa Munguia at the top of the key. A second later, Munguia found a wide open #1 in the right corner who would drain a three, putting the score at 24-22.
The Lady Mustangs wouldn't give up, however. After Rattler Becky Clarke hit one of two free throws, Memorial would again their second buzzer beater. The two-point basket gave the Mustangs a 27-23 halftime lead.
In the third, Shary again came out flat as they did in the second. Memorial used the lack of focus to their advantage with Stanton creating a couple of turnovers. The tough defense would hold the Lady Rattlers to only three points in the first seven minutes of the game.
However, once again Prichard and Cole would come to the rescue. Down 36-26, Prichard would hit a deep three with less than a minute. When the Rattlers got the ball back, the point guard heaved another trey. However, though this time was a miss Cole got the missed shot, putt it back while getting fouled. The made free throw would end the quarter with a score of 36-32.
In the fourth is when it all fell apart. Though Cole would score to cut the lead to two with just less than six minutes remaining, Stanton would take over. The outstanding dribbler hit a beautiful floating jumper with less than four minutes to extend the lead to seven. Then with just over two minutes left, Stanton would shoot a high arching jumper that went in despite being fouled. With the make of the freebie, Memorial took a 45-35 lead and would ice the game with free throws.
The loss forces the Rattlers to a must-win on Tuesday in order to be be co-champs. Further, because it is the second loss to the Mustangs, Memorial is granted the number one seed even if Shary wins their last game.
The Lady Rattler's district closing game with Mission is Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Mission High School.
Sharyland plays at Mission on at 6 p.m.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.