Gilmer Girls Claim Share Of District 16-4A Title With Win At Spring Hill
LONGVIEW -- The first part of the Lady Buckeyes' preseason dream came true Tuesday. Even if it was not exactly how they imagined it.
Gilmer topped Spring Hill, 76-55, in the final game of its regular season to claim an equal share of the District 16-4A championship with a perennially strong Bullard program.
"It's huge," Lady Buckeyes head coach Mandi Simpson said. "Obviously, everyone wants to be a district champ and not a co-champ. But, for us, it's been 27 years since we've even had a part of one. For our whole program and for the younger ones coming up, it's huge for Gilmer."
Simpson's squad now has the right to challenge Bullard to a district championship game and vice versa. That game would be played later this week at a time, date and location to be determined by the head coaches.
Both teams finished the district schedule with 9-1 records. The single losses came against each other, both taking games on the road.
Gilmer's win at Bullard, the first meeting of the year, snapped an eight-year home winning streak against league competition.
The twin champions also have the option of flipping a coin to determine the first-place finisher for playoff purposes.
Regardless of the route chosen, the 2016 district title will be recognized as a tie from the official standpoint.
It's something Gilmer (23-7, 9-1) can build on. Right here and next season.
"Coach told us in practice it had been 27 years," junior guard Destiny Brooks said. "It's a good feeling going into the playoffs with a district championship. It's a lot of motivation for us to go far in the playoffs this year."
Credit Brooks and her 26 points for whatever good follows. She connected on seven 3-pointers through the game and helped the Lady Buckeyes get a hold of a disjointed 32-minute contest featuring 40 fouls.
Spring Hill (17-9, 4-6) cut what was a 46-27 Lady Buckeyes' lead at halftime to a 52-42 deficit with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter. More than that, Gilmer had three players with four infractions.
Brooks' back-to-back treys answered the 15-6 opening run of the second half.
Spring Hill never got within 10 points again and the lead allowed Gilmer to relax on defense and escape without a single player fouling out.
Junior small forward Belynda Ray added 21 points in the victory and senior guard Ashlyn Ray's 10 points rounded out double-digit scorers for the winning side.
"We're feeling pretty confident about this," Belynda Ray said. "We're a good team. We have so much talent, together. We're really working well."
Ann Hollas -- the ETSN.fm East Texas Volleyball Super Team's Player of the Year and a Stephen F. Austin volleyball signee -- led Spring Hill with a game-best 29 points scored down low and from the free throw line. Kayla Crowe put up another 12 points.
Spring Hill previously secured the district's fourth and final playoff spot. The game had no bearing on its positioning.
Likewise, Chapel Hill clinched the third postseason slot before Tuesday. Gladewater and Kilgore's seasons ended Tuesday.
Liberty-Eylau will be Spring Hill's bi-district playoff opponent early next week.
It's all up in the air for Gilmer. But the team is going somewhere.
"It is amazing to be a championship team, for district," Belynda Ray said. "Since it's been so long, everyone is with us now. We have the talent behind us. Teachers and children that don't even watch basketball know us and support us in this journey. Since we've reached the destination, they're just going to push us further."
Gilmer 76, Spring Hill 55
At Spring Hill High School, Longview
Gilmer 25 21 14 16 -- 76
Spring Hill 15 12 17 11 -- 55
GILMER (23-7, 9-1) -- Destiny Brooks 26, Belynda Ray 21, Ashlyn Ray 10, Kyla Grant 9, Christian Brown 3, Laraebion Brewster 3, Augusta Hampton 2, Megan Smith 2.
SPRING HILL (17-9, 4-6) -- Ann Hollas 29, Kayla Crowe 12, Julie Hodges 8, Jayla Landrum 5, Hannah Grubb 1.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Gilmer: Brooks (7), Brown. Spring Hill: Crowde (2), Landrum.