BULLARD -- After a one year hiatus, the Spring Hill Lady Panthers are back in the playoffs.

Thanks to a big first half and Audrey Popelar's shooting touch, Spring Hill took down Kilgore 55-41 on Friday to claim the third seed in District 16-3A.

Spring Hill (16-17) moves on to face District 15-3A runner-up Mabank (18-14) on Tuesday in Class 3A Region II bi-district playoff at a site to be determined.

Popelar poured in a game-high 19 points, including five 3-pointers to lead the Lady Panthers. Mikai Brown added 11 points, while Ann Hollas scored nine. Leslie Blevins and Ashlyn White combined for 14 points.

"We were in the same position last year and that's all the girls talked about," said Spring Hill coach Bobby Rush. "The girls said, 'We're going to win this one.' Last year, we lost in double overtime to Gilmer, so we were going to make sure we win this one. We talked about playing with heart and we did that in the first half."

Spring Hill jumped out to a 17-10 lead after the first quarter, thanks to Popelar's eight points, including a couple of triples. Then the Lady Panthers put 19 on the board in the second to build a 36-20 halftime advantage.

But Kilgore showed resolve.

The Lady Bulldogs exploded for 18 third-quarter points points, thanks to Tony Burks and Annie Mehringer. The junior duo combined for 12 points in the third, and got Kilgore within eight, 44-36, with just less than a minute remaining in the quarter. Burks finished with a team-high 18 points, while Destiny Rossum added nine, and Mehringer chimed in with seven. Maykala Thomas also had five points.

Spring Hill cranked up its defense in the fourth quarter, holding Kilgore to five points in the final stanza.

"We came out after halftime and acted like we have an 18-point lead and kind of relaxed," Rush said. "I told the girls to turn it up, and they did. Two years ago, we made the (3A) regional finals, and were one game from going to Austin (state tournament). So, we're headed back, and ready to make a run."