Sixth-Ranked Dallas Lincoln Grinds Out 43-39 Win to Eliminate Bullard in Regional Semis
COMMERCE -- For one half, the Bullard Lady Panthers were doing everything they wanted on both ends of the court, and were able to build an impressive halftime lead on their favored opponent.
Then everything ground to a halt.
Sixth-ranked Lincoln surged in front in the opening minutes of the third quarter, and its stall tactics on offense helped hold Bullard to just one second-half field goal in a 43-39 win Friday in a Class 4A Region II semifinal at The Fieldhouse on the campus of Texas A&M-Commerce.
Lincoln (30-4) will meet top-ranked and defending state champion Argyle (32-1) at noon Saturday for the regional title and a berth in next week's UIL state tournament in San Antonio.
Bullard, which shared the District 16-4A title and carried the league's No. 1 seed into the playoffs, finished its season at 31-7.
The Lady Panthers knocked down five first-half 3-pointers to take a 25-19 halftime lead, but Lincoln began the third with 12 consecutive points and a 31-25 advantage a little more than two minutes into the half.
"That was disappointing," Bullard coach Barry Gill said of his team's rough start to the second half. "We definitely had a couple minutes in the third quarter where we kinda went the other way, but we fought back and got back into it and made it a competitive game against a very good team."
Once Lincoln took control of the game, the Lady Tigers took their time on offense the rest of the way, keeping Bullard's offense from going on the attack. Because of Lincoln's time-consuming approach, Bullard did not score its first field goal in the second half until the 1:45 mark of the fourth quarter.
"With their speed and quickness and their skill with the ball, we'd seen it on film a lot," Gill said of Lincoln's slow-it-down approach. 'We certainly prepared for it but that doesn't make it easy to stop."
Bullard battled back by getting to the free throw line.
Lady Panthers senior post Lexi Kirgan, an Abilene Christian signee, hit a pair of foul shots to cut Lincoln's lead to 38-35 with 2:03 remaining.
Kirgan finally put in Bullard's only field goal of the second half to pull the Lady Panthers to within three again, 40-37, but that was a close as Bullard came over the final 1:45.
Lincoln clamped down on Bullard's perimeter shooters, which forced the Lady Panthers to go inside to Kirgan, who took 14 of her team's 16 second-half free throws.
"They started stretching out (defensively) and leaving Lexi in one-on-one situations," Gill said. "More than anything we just got tired in terms of not making the 3's down the stretch. I'm really confident, I feel like I have some of the best shooters around."
Kirgan finished the night with 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists, putting a cap on her four-year high school career, which included 111 wins.
"I've coached her all four years and I've stated many times what she means to me and the program," Gill said. "She was just in the locker room telling the other girls just how happy she was to part of their team. It's important to her, she's a great girl and everybody loves her."
Sophomore guard Kennedy Taylor led Lincoln with 16 points to go with two assists and a pair of steals. Senior forward Korie Leary added 12 points, six rebounds, and three steals, but fouled out with 2:03 remaining in the game.
Bullard hit a trio of 3's in the opening quarter, including Sydney Foster's shot from long range that gave the Lady Panthers a 13-10 lead after one quarter.
Lincoln went on a 6-0 run to begin the second to take its first lead, but Bullard responded with a 12-3 spurt to close the half, which featured nine points from Kirgan, including a layup just before the halftime buzzer sounded.
"It was our first time with this particular group of girls on such a big stage, a lot of times teams come out nervous and sluggish, and really leave with egg on their face," Gill said. "I really thought in the first half we really showed some poise and confidence."
No. 6 Dallas Lincoln 43, No. 18 Bullard 39
Girls Class 4A Region II Semifinal
At The Fieldhouse, Texas A&M-Commerce
Lincoln 10 9 15 9 -- 43
Bullard 13 12 4 10 -- 39
LINCOLN (30-4) -- Kennedy Taylor, 16; Korie Leary, 12; Alena Wilson, 7; Aysia McCullough, 6; Alycia Shugord, 2.
BULLARD (31-7) -- Lexi Kirgan, 25; Hannah Lloyd, 6; Sydney Foster, 3; Lauren Zachry, 3; Abby Story, 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Lincoln: Taylor. Bullard: Lloyd (2), Foster, Kirgan, Zachry.