Bullard Tops Gilmer In District 16-4A First-Place Seeding Game
WINONA -- It's going to be tough to stop Lexi Kirgan in the Class 4A state basketball playoffs.
That was the big takeaway from Friday's District 16-4A championship game at Winona High School, a 54-39 win for the Lady Panthers against a pesky Gilmer team that handed Kirgan and company their only loss in 11 league matches.
"I think 29 points was the high in her career," Bullard head coach Barry Gill said. "Then she scores 42 points the other day and 30 against Kilgore (on Tuesday). She's playing great. Really staying focussed and scoring the ball."
Friday was a tad of a down game compared to an average of 36 points for the 6-foot-3 senior center and Abilene Christian signee through the previous two contests. Kirgan only put up a game-best 23 points.
It was more than enough to spur the Lady Panthers (28-6) to victory. They had an inside presence on both ends of the floor and Gilmer (23-8) did not.
The Lady Buckeyes, pushed away from the sweet spot, shot 33 percent from the field versus 57 percent for the winning side.
Bullard's major reward is a bi-district date with Atlanta on Tuesday, the fourth-place finisher from adjacent District 15-4A. Secondarily, the team rallied back from a one-game hole against Gilmer early in the district season to take the series two games to one.
Both teams officially went down as district co-champions.
The twin champions wrapped up the normal district schedule with 9-1 league records. Circumstances allowed them to play for playoff positioning.
Gilmer, now a two-seed, will theoretically face a tougher challenge Monday against three-seed Paris North Lamar at Tatum High School.
"We're excited for the kids," Gill said. "And our staff put a lot into this game. My two assistants, I've got the two best assistants in the world. We put a lot into it, our kids put a lot into it and it's meaningful for both teams. Gilmer is a great team. They've got a lot of class and play really well together. We're just really happy with the win."
Kirgan hummed along for eight points in the first quarter, but through seven lead changes the period ended as a 17-17 game.
The Lady Buckeyes went scoreless for the first 5:41 of the second period, a 6:27 drought in total. Bullard capitalized for a 9-0 run.
Kristen Chamberlain recorded three straight steals and then a defensive rebound to keep the stretch going while Kirgan put up eight of the points from down low. Gilmer committed a further three unforced turnovers as part of the spree.
Bullard expanded a 32-25 lead at the break to a 17-point advantage midway through the third quarter. The Lady Buckeyes never got closer than nine points in the final minutes.
Gilmer scored eight 3-pointers Tuesday in its win against Spring Hill. Bullard held it to three successful attempts beyond the arc.
"We've always been a little up-and-down offensively," Gill said. "Half-court defense has always kind of been our staple. They are a very good offensive team, so we just tried to stay tight with a couple of their shooters and we're fortunate to have a big girl inside to protect the rim. We stayed focussed more than anything."
Sydney Foster's 12 points placed her second on Bullard's scoring sheet. Lauren Zachary also reached double digits with 10 points.
Abby Storey recorded six of the Lady Panthers' 13 assists. All but one assist in the game fed Kirgan.
Ashlyn Ray scored a team-best 14 points and Destiny Brooks added 11 points for Gilmer.
"This doesn't mean anything when we start next week," Gill said. "That's what matters. It's just the girls work hard for all year for this. We are really excited to win."
Bullard 54, Gilmer 39
District 16-4A Championship Game
At Winona High School
Gilmer 17 8 7 7 -- 39
Bullard 17 15 12 10 -- 54
GILMER (23-8) -- Ashlyn Ray 14, Destiny Brooks 11, Belynda Ray 6, Christian Brown 5, Laraebion Brewster 3.
BULLARD (28-6) -- Lexi Kirgan 23, Sydney Foster 12, Lauren Zachary 10, Hanna Lloyd 6, Kristen Chamberlain 2, Abby Storey 1.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Gilmer: Ashlyn Ray (2), Brooks. Bullard: Zachary (3), Lloyd (2), Foster.