TYLER -- Bullard was a quarter away from playing in a consolation game at the Macy Chenevert Patriot Classic and, more importantly, blinking against a District 16-4A foe.

But eight minutes turned out to be more than enough time Tuesday morning at UT-Tyler's Herrington Patriot Center.

Down 27-17 after scoring five combined points in the second and third quarters, the Lady Panthers pulled out a 37-31 win against Gilmer in the pre-district tournament's semifinal round. The victory sets Bullard up to take on a very good John Tyler team at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday back on UT-Tyler's campus.

Gilmer's Jameekia Homer goes up for a contested layup against Bullard's Lexi Kirgan. The two forwards battled each other in the paint throughout the game. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

"I said last night that Gilmer was going to be tough," Bullard assistant head coach Chris Hightower said. "We've got them two more times, and it's going to be a battle every single time we play them. Two evenly matched teams in a lot of different ways, but two completely different teams also."

The win did not negatively affect Gilmer's postseason chances nor would winning the Patriot Classic help Bullard. Texas teams can only make the state playoffs by accumulating enough wins to finish in the top four spots of a respective district. The District 16-4A schedule does not begin until Jan. 9.

Bullard will visit Gilmer on Jan. 13 and the Lady Buckeyes will return the trip on Jan. 30.

If Tuesday's game was any indication, those two head-to-head district games will have a lot of say in who gets the easier path out of East Texas and onto the state scope.

Lady Panthers 6-foot-3 junior forward Lexi Kirgan has been a matchup nightmare for most opponents. Gilmer countered with similarly built forward Jameekia Homer down low.

Battles between the two were physical, but the supporting cast found ways to feed Kirgan for a game-best 24 points.

Homer scored a team second-best 10 points for the losing side on the other end. Christian Brown scored 11.

Bullard worked its way out to a 12-7 lead after one quarter of play, but the team only made two field goals in the middle frames and converted one of two free throw attempts -- all by Kirgan. Gilmer put up 20 points in the same span.

Bullard's Madison Slayter drives pass, Gilmer's Destiny Brooks for a layup during Tuesday's Macy Chenevert Patriot Classic semifinal game. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Things unraveled for the Lady Buckeyes early in the fourth, however.

Kirgan drove for two baskets to close a personal run of 11 consecutive points for the Lady Panthers. Maddy Slayter and Lauren Zachry then hit back-to-back 3-point scores to tie the game. Another Kirgan score gave the team a 29-27 lead with 4:04 remaining.

Gilmer tied the game on Destiny Brooks' putback and claimed its final lead, 31-29, with Belynda Ray's jumper from the middle of the paint with 2:35 on the clock.

Kirgan of all players hit a go-ahead shot from 3-point land on the next possession.

The Lady Buckeyes missed two free throws and entered foul mode, but that was a challenge because they had two fouls to give with less than a minute left. A controversial flagrant foul call allowed Bullard to move to 33-31 and the winning side hit two of four from the line down the stetch.

Kirgan sealed the game with 21 seconds left on a shot from the field.

"Just the perseverance of our girls, we were up seven early on and by half we were down eight," Hightower said. "So there was a 15-point swing there. Our half court defense really picked it up in the second half and they really didn't score much in the third quarter, but we only scored two points."

The reward? A John Tyler team from Class 5A that cruised into the tournament's championship game with a 69-39 win against Tyler Grace Community.

The Lady Lions had three players reach double-digit scoring figures against Grace, just 11 hours after a solid win against Tatum in the quarterfinal round.

"Our girls have played them so many times in the summer and the fall," Hightower said. "Obviously, they're good. Coach (Mike) Smith does a great job. They are really playing well right now. We've got our hands full, but we're familiar with them. It's just a matter of slowing them down a little bit."


John Tyler Breezes Past Tyler Grace

The Lady Lions played their tournament semifinal game immediately preceding Bullard's game, a 69-39 win against Tyler Grace Community.

Senior guards Tameal Jones and Amia Wickware spurred JT to a quick 12-2 lead.

Grace rallied in the latter moments of the first frame for a 22-12 deficit after one period, but the Lady Lions' defense held the Lady Cougars to three points in the second quarter on the way to a 40-21 lead at the break.

"We came back from Christmas, you never know what you're going to get, but we came back and the kids were ready to play," JT head coach Mike Smith said. "You could see they were ready to play and focused."

Destani Whitehead led the Lady Lions with 12 points. Wickware and Ashtyn Beal rounded out double-digit scorers with 11 points apiece. Shakendra Tilley and Shakala Johnson came close with nine points in platoon action.

Grace got a team-best 12 points from freshman guard Addie Daughtry.

At the time of the win, Smith did not know whether the team would face Bullard or Gilmer.

"I know they both have big girls inside that would give us trouble," the coach said. "There's a couple of teams in district like that, so it'll be a good game for us either way. We're going to have to go try to take care of something we don't have an answer for except for our quickness."

John Tyler's Tameal Jones attempts to block Tatum's Diamond Sammons shot during Monday's quarterfinal game at the Macy Chenevert Patriot Classic. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)


Macy Chenevert Patriot Classic


Bullard 37, Gilmer 31

Gilmer            7    16      4     4    --    31
Bullard           12    3      2    20    --    37
GILMER -- Christian Brown 11; Jammekia Homer 10; Destiny Brooks 6; Belynda Ray 4.
BULLARD -- Lexi Kirgan 24; Maddy Slayter 5; Hannah Lloyd 4; Lauren Zachry 3; Kristen Chamberlain 1.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Gilmer: Brown. Bullard: Kirgan, Slayter, Zachry


John Tyler 69, Tyler Grace Community 39

Tyler Grace               10      11    10      8    --    39
John Tyler                 22     18     16    13    --    69
GRACE -- Addie Daughtry 12; Kylie Stinson 8; Hannah Wright 8; Kandice West 5; Bethany Kimmey 4; Tori Intlehouse 2.
JOHN TYLER -- Destani Whitehead 12; Ashtyn Beal 11; Amia Wickware 11; Daz Johnson 9; Shakendra Tilley 9; Tameal Jones 8; Alyssa Mayfield 5; Kaleigh Hackett 2; Shakala Johnson 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Grace: None. John Tyler: Wickware (3), Whitehead (2).