ANNA — The Lady Bulldogs dropped their pulse-pounding playoff opener, 45-43, in heartbreaking fashion to the Whitesboro Lady Bearcats on Monday, Feb. 12.

The first quarter was a conundrum for both teams — a slew of air-balls, missed passes, turnovers and steals plagued the opening minutes. After neither team scored for three minutes into the first quarter, Payton Griffin broke the ice with a Howe score, giving them an early 2-0 lead with five minutes left in the quarter. Whitesboro fired back with two free-throws and a layup to over take the Lady Bulldogs with a 4-2 score. Howe fought for possession of the ball for the rest of the quarter with back and forth scoring that saw the quarter end in a 7-7 tie. Despite the slow play to start, it was clear this game was going to come down to the wire.

In the second quarter, the pace of play quickened some with Whitesboro junior Casey Monk immediately hitting a 3 to start the quarter. Monk was followed up by fellow Lady Bearcat Piper Dunn who sunk a 3-pointer of her own. Whitesboro was now confidently pulling ahead with a 13-7 lead. Before they knew it, the Lady Bulldogs saw themselves down by an abysmal 17-9 margin as the half was close to coming to an end. The Howe girls turned it up suddenly in the final minutes of the half, shutting down Whitesboro and going on a four basket streak led by Jenna Honore who had four points of the Lady Bulldogs eight points at the end of the half. This push saw Whitesboro and Howe tied up 17-17 going into halftime.

“We just didn’t play that well [in the first half], turned the ball over a bunch,” Howe head coach Derek Lands said. “Maybe it was the grade of play — we were wound up a little too tight — I don’t know we just didn’t execute.”

Both squads seemed to find a groove in the third quarter putting up their best numbers of the game thus far. Howe managed 11 points of offense in the quarter, Peyton Streetman leading the Bulldogs with 6 points in the quarter. Whitesboro put up 14 points while also putting some defensive pressure on the Lady Bulldogs. This allowed Whitesboro to head into the fourth quarter with a 31-28 lead.

In the opening minutes of the fourth, Whitesboro extended their lead to 37-30, until Howe turned it around, going on a 8 point scoring streak led by Calley Vick who had 11 points in the quarter, this allowed Howe to take a 38-37 lead and pick up some momentum in the final minutes. Whitesboro momentarily retained the lead until Howe went on another tear pushing the score to 43-39 in their favor. As the minutes turned into seconds, Karlee Shuessler hit a 3 for Whitesboro that put them right on the tail of the Lady Bulldogs with a 43-42 score. Streetman was fouled on a play with 15 seconds left on the clock, the free-throw bounced around the rim then into Whitesboro hands. The Lady Bearcats charged down the floor hoping for a miracle but the Lady Bulldogs were hot on their heels, sealing up any open shooting lanes. 5 seconds left, Monk had the ball from 20 feet outside of the three-point line, in a last stitch effort Monk took the shot off balance and a mile away — nothing but net. With no time for the Lady Bulldogs to work with, the clock ran out with Whitesboro on top, 45-43.

“I thought we played that second half great, and still at that we had other chances to put this thing away,” Coach Lands said after the game. “Regardless of this it was a great year, it really was, and that bunch [seniors] led us to this point. This team is filled with good kids and I’m proud of what they’ve done this year.”

Streetman finished up the night with 13 points for the Bulldogs, while Griffin and Vick ended the game with 5 and 8 point,s respectively. Ally Harvey had a great game for Howe with 10 points.

Monk ended her night with 14 points, Dunn had 8 points and Schuessler wrapped it up with 6 points.

The Lady Bulldogs ended their successful 2017-2018 campaign with a 7-3 district record.