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Spring Hill’s Dominance From Beyond the Arc Sparks 63-42 Rout of Emory Rains

Spring Hill's Mikai Brown heads to the basket during the Lady Panthers' 38-30 win over Chapel Hill last month in Longview. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)
Spring Hill’s Mikai Brown heads to the basket during the Lady Panthers’ 38-30 win over Chapel Hill last month in Longview. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

LINDALE — A note for all Class 3A region II playoff teams: Audrey Popelar can shoot.

Contested. Wide-open. It doesn’t matter.

The Spring Hill guard was unconscious from behind the arc, draining six three-pointers to the tune of 18 points, and the Lady Panthers thumped Emory Rains, 63-42, in a Class 3A Region II area playoff on Thursday.

Spring Hill (18-17) had the shooting, sinking 10 3-pointers while shooting 80 percent from the free-throw line. Leslie Blevins chimed in with 10 points and team-high eight boards and three steals. Jacey Fleet and Mikai Brown combined for 16 points, including four triples and Ashlyn White added nine points and a couple of steals.

“We are so unselfish,” said Spring Hill coach Bobby Rush. “We don’t care who score or who gets the steal. We just go play. We do stations everyday (in practice). It’s either attack the basket or go to the 3-point line. We either score layups or kick out to our shooters. We love sharing athletes at Spring Hill. That success they had in volleyball carries over to basketball. It’s truly an awesome program we have. When we hit that first 3-pointer, I knew it was on.”

Spring Hill will now play with winner of Bullard and Pittsburg next Tuesday at a time and place to be determined in the regional quarterfinals.

The 3-point barrage started in the first quarter when Popelar nailed two treys as Spring Hill staged an early 10-2 run. Brown tickled the twine with another three-ball and the Lady Panthers led, 19-11, after one period.

Rains (20-13) stayed close, thanks to sophomore Hannah Dickens. She nailed back-to-back 3′s to keep the LadyCats close, 25-17, at the 3:45 mark in the second. But Spring Hill pushed its lead to 14, thanks to a couple of baskets by Blevins and a steal and layup by White at the halftime buzzer. Spring Hill led, 34-20, at the intermission.

Popelar opened the second half with two consecutive 3′s as the the Lady Panthers pushed their lead to 40-22. When Fleet connected from a couple feet behind the 3-point line, Spring Hill’s lead swelled to 15, 43-28, with just less than two minutes remaining in the quarter.

When Popelar began the fourth quarter with another 3-pointer, Spring Hill led 50-29, and was in complete control.

Rains’ 6-7 post Klara Bradshaw led all scorers with 21 points. She had 18 in the second half after taking just two shots in the first half. She finished with a game-high 10 rebounds and six blocks. Megan Hazelwood tallied 10 points and six boards, while Dickens added nine points.

“It doesn’t matter where I really am on the perimter, if you’re not up on me, I’m going to shoot,”  Popelar said. “I think tonight really shows that if we all play together across the board, and everyone scores and we’re not being selfish, that’s the most important thing to us.”

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