Bullard Girls Cruise By Atlanta In Class 4A Playoff Opener
TATUM -- Lexi Kirgan was in the midst of another tear when the world stopped. For as long as it took the referees to reset the ball underneath Bullard's basket, anyway.
The Lady Panthers' 6-3 senior center had 13 points in 11 minutes of play, but she was whistled for her third foul in the same span.
If Atlanta was going to pull a major upset against the District 16-4A first seed and the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' 18th-ranked team Tuesday in the Class 4A bi-district playoff round from Tatum High School, this moment should have been the moment.
Kirgan scored another basket her next trip up the floor and helped lay the framework of a 63-30 victory.
"You obviously don't know me very well," Lady Panthers head coach Barry Gill said, laughing. "I say, 'Play until you foul out.'"
There are no rules about what to do with players until someone fouls out of the game with five infractions, but the industry standard is to pull a player for the remainder of the first half if they reach three fouls. That way, the player will be available during more crucial minutes.
Gill figured Kirgan could make the adjustments on her own.
The Abilene Christian signee finished her individual game with 25 points, 12 total rebounds and five blocked shots. Those were the best totals in all three categories.
Kirgan missed just two minutes of meaningful time in the first half for a routine break on the bench.
Atlanta (20-9), the fourth seed from District 15-4A, never led in the playoff contest. However, it tied the score three separate occasions within the game's first nine minutes.
Bullard (29-8) was just beginning to find a stride when Kirgan picked up foul No. 3. Opting for continuity, Gill watched a 20-16 lead at the 5:47 mark of the second quarter turn into a 34-19 halftime advantage versus a perpetually off balanced Atlanta defense.
"I just did some stupid things," Kirgan said. "I reached. I really don't remember what my fouls were, but I just have to think about it in my head. It's a mental thing. Once I get those three fouls, I know I have to play smarter."
The Lady Rabbits put up four straight points to start the second half before giving up an all but season-ending 14-0 run spurred by 10 points from Kirgan and a Kirgan assist.
Perimeter play gave Bullard a lift through the game as well. The team's guards combined for seven successful 3-point shots, led by three treys from Lauren Zachary.
The Lady Panthers connected on 26 of 56 shots from the field in the playoff game. That's 46.4 percent.
Sydney Foster's 12 points followed Kirgan's team-best. Hanna Lloyd and Zachary also broke double digits with 10 points each.
Atlanta converted 12 of 46 shooting opportunities, committed 19 unforced turnovers as part of 23 in total and gave up a minus-16 margin in the rebounding department. None of its players scored more than eight points.
Bullard surrendered 15 possessions while winning 33 of 50 opportunities on the boards, including a 2:1 ratio on its offensive side of the floor.
"I think they're a young team," Gill said of Atlanta. "They played hard. I think, in time, the experience helped out a little bit. We have a size advantage and we shot the ball well."
The Lady Panthers will take on Emory Rains in the area round of the state playoffs later this week. A time, date and location will be coordinated between the two schools in the near future.
Bullard will be going for its 12th straight win.
"I think we've got great potential," Kirgan said. "We've been working super hard. I'm excited to see where this win takes us."
No. 18 Bullard 63, Atlanta 30
Class 4A Bi-District Playoff Game
At Tatum High School
Atlanta 14 5 6 5 -- 30
Bullard 15 19 17 12 -- 63
ATLANTA (20-9) -- Teshuna Sheppard 8, Stonni Farmer 7, Amber Adams 4, Kaydee Kelley 4, Kensey Kelly 4, Sheveonia Smith 2, Keosha Fedrick 1.
BULLARD (29-6) -- Lexi Kirgan 25, Sydney Foster 12, Hanna Lloyd 10, Lauren Zachary 10, Kristen Chamberlain 2, Tracy Johnson 2, Abby Storey 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Atlanta: None. Bullard: Zachary (3), Foster (2), Lloyd (2).