It took a few plays to get the game-speed rhythm back before the Howe Lady Bulldogs took off for a 65-45, Class 3A, Region II bi-district win over Whitesboro at Frisco Heritage High School on Feb. 13.


Howe has now won five straight bi-district titles.


A little payback for an early-season loss to the Bearcats, but Howe’s five on and five off rotation proved to be the answer.


“I still believe there’s something to our substitution plan,” Howe head coach Derek Lands said. “The girls know they can go hard for three minutes and they get a rest, I think that helps.”


Junior Peyton Streetman, who finished with 15 points to lead the Lady Bulldog offense, went to the foul line three times in the team’s first four possessions. Her three makes from the line and a 3-pointer by senior Landry Rhoten keyed the early Howe run.


“We missed some free throws early but I think it just takes us a second to get going, wasn’t nerves for sure,” Streetman said.


Whitesboro, second place finishers in District 9-3A, came back to tie the game at 5-5 before Howe’s second unit took the court.


Junior Payton Griffin had a nice defensive play to stop an easy look by Whitesboro, then banked in a 3-pointer to give the Lady Bulldogs a lead they never relinquished.


A 3-pointer by senior Kayla Anderson and sophomore Callie Vick’s full-court drive for a layup pushed the Howe lead to five.


Senior Kamryn Fulenchek put back an offensive rebound, which she had taken away from a Whitesboro player, giving Howe a 16-11 lead at the end of the first period.


Streetman drove the lane for a layup to open the second quarter scoring, and added two free throws after Rhoten had blocked a shot at the other end.


Senior Madison Hargrove connected on a 3-pointer to continue the Howe run. Hargrove finished with nine points in the contest.


“We had a lot of confidence coming into the game, and I just didn’t want this to be my last high school game,” Hargrove said.


Howe’s two freshmen players collaborated on a play midway through the quarter as Jenna Honore dished an inside pass to Ally Harvey who dropped in the floater.


A basket by senior Emily Sanders and Anderson’s second 3-ball of the night ended a 12-0 run for the Lady Bulldogs.


Sanders sent in a pair of free throws after a technical foul on the Whitesboro bench, before the first half ended on a curious, but unexplained circumstance. Streetman got a steal as the last seconds ticked off, and drove for the hoop when she was fouled. She ended up taking six free throws, making four, giving Howe a 39-20 lead at the halftime break.


“We never got an explanation on why she got that many free throws and I have never seen it happen before,” Lands said


Sticking with his five on and five off substitution pattern allowed the Lady Bulldogs to keep constant pressure on Whitesboro, and the players liked it as well.


“I think each unit feeds off of each other — when the starters do well, the players coming in continue to play well,” Streetman said. “We may have felt a little pressure early but we did what coach told us, relax and have fun.”


The Lady Bulldogs made 4-of-6 from the free-throw line to start the second quarter. Griffin and Sanders each scored baskets, and a free throw by Honore gave Howe a 20-point lead with 1:50 left in the third quarter.


Hargrove got open beneath the Whitesboro basket and added the and-one free throw after being fouled on the make. She was playing some pretty good defense as well, holding Whitesboro’s Karlee Schuessler to just seven points, two in the first three quarters.


In the 20-point blow out, defensive gems were being played all over the court. Honore took a charge after chasing down Whitesboro’s leading scorer, Lauren Purdom. The freshman, and her sub, held Purdom to just six points for the night.


Anderson was limiting the damage of Whitesboro’s two big players and finished with six points and nine rebounds. Harvey collected an offensive rebound and scored to open the final period, and would later add a basket after getting a steal at the defensive end.


Most of the last four minutes of the game were spent at the free-throw line. Streetman made 3-of-4 before subbing out and Vick finished the game with two from the stripe. Sophomore Bethany Masters, who was last seen guarding the Gold Ball trophy, split on two attempts from the line late in the game.


Howe will play Alba Golden in the area round game on Feb. 17 at Royse City High School. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m.