Gilmer Girls Edge Bullard In Important District 15-4A Opener
BULLARD -- Bullard's crowd got that much louder when Augusta Hampton missed the front end of her two free throws inside the final 21 seconds of Friday's District 15-4A game.
A single point would put Gilmer back in front and revive the idea it could somehow manage to sink the Lady Panthers at home for the second time in two seasons.
There was a lot of pressure on Hampton. Aside from the Lady Buckeyes 51 weeks ago, no district opponent had touched Bullard at home in nine seasons and counting.
The Lady Buckeyes did the improbable again in a 41-39 victory. Hampton hit the back end of her free throws, Gilmer held on defense and then got another free throw with one second left in the game.
"It doesn't ever feel easy," jubilant coach Mandi Simpson said. "I'm always just as nervous playing Bullard. Until tonight, they've beaten us four out of the last five times they've played us. The main thing I told my kids was not to be afraid to fail. If they could do that, I couldn't get mad at them win or lose."
There's still a long way to go before Simpson's team can starting thinking about where the district championship plaque will go within Gilmer High School's expansive trophy case. The team knows it.
Bullard (20-5, 0-1) rallied back from its home loss last season and took two games from the Lady Buckeyes (20-3, 1-0) down the stretch. The Lady Panthers won at Gilmer to draw even in the standings and, since neither team lost any other district games, Bullard got to beat the Lady Buckeyes a second time in a district tiebreaker game.
From there, both squads moved on to reach the Class 4A Region II tournament and lost on different sides of the semifinal bracket to Dallas-Fort Worth area teams.
But Gilmer once again has the early high ground thanks to 11-for-14 free throw shooting, 11-second chance points and a turnover margin of plus-four to negate 14-for-43 shooting from the field.
Bullard shot 8-for-17 from the line, committed 17 turnovers and scored two second-chance points while shooting a decent 13-for-32 from the field.
"We had a lot of confidence going into district," senior guard Destiny Brooks said. "This definitely carries momentum for the rest of district play. We're feeling good, feel like we can do something in district and do something in the playoffs."
It didn't seem like the game would come down to free throws by Hampton in the early minutes. The Lady Buckeyes raced out to a 10-1 advantage and held Bullard scoreless from the field for the first 6:24.
And it certainly didn't seem like Gilmer coming up clutch at the charity stripe would be a factor after a technical foul on Simpson with nine-tenths of a second left in the first half allowed the Lady Panthers to make it an 18-18 game. While it was close on the scoreboard, the Lady Buckeyes entered the break with 12 on-court fouls, two players with three fouls to their names and a coach frustrated by the foul count.
Bullard committed six fouls in the first half.
The Lady Panthers closed the third quarter on a 10-4 run and owned a 30-29 lead.
There were three lead changes -- all belonging to Gilmer -- and two ties in the fourth quarter. Two free throws by Kirgan tied the game for a final time with 59 seconds remaining.
Brooks killed 20 seconds out of a timeout by holding the ball around mid court and then found Hampton down low. Hampton drew a shooting foul with 20.5 seconds left in the game and subsequently made the winning free throw.
Bullard missed on its go-ahead look, Hampton came down with the rebound and extended the play on a pass to Kyla Grant, who drew a foul with just 1.19 seconds remaining.
Kirgan scored a game-best 18 points and Lauren Zachary rounded out double-digit scorers for the Lady Panthers with four successful 3-pointers and a free throw.
Grant was the sole Lady Buckeyes player to reach double figures. She scored 16 points.
Gilmer will host Spring Hill on Tuesday. Bullard simultaneously travels to Chapel Hill.
"We give it our all, all the time," Hampton said. "But we knew this was a big game for district. I'm really proud of my team. We gave it all on the court."
Gilmer 41, Bullard 39
At Bullard High School
Gilmer 10 8 11 12 -- 41
Bullard 6 12 12 9 -- 39
Gilmer (20-3) -- Kyla Grant 16, Belynda Ray 9, Destiny Brooks 7, Augusta Hamton 4, Bri Burns 3, Kahriya Willams 2.
Bullard (20-5) -- Allie Kirgan 18, Lauren Zachary 13, Sydney Foster 5, Hanna Lloyd 3.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Gilmer: Brooks, Burns. Bullard: Foster (4).