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Girls’ basketball playoffs: Pearland edges Clear Lake, 49-43

February 12, 2019

FRIENDSWOOD -- Having lost three of its last four district games - including a 26-point setback to rival Dawson - the Pearland girls’ basketball team appeared to be anything but a unit groomed for an extended playoff run.

Mix in the fact that head coach Lauren Martens’ squad played its bi-district playoff game Monday night without 6-foot, 3-inch starting post De’Yona Gaston and starting senior guard Kori Grays, and the outlook wasn’t exactly rosy for the Lady Oilers.

However, as Clear Lake painfully learned, effort, energy and enthusiasm can offset the greatest deficiencies.

Swarming Clear Lake (21-9) with 32 minutes of defense, Pearland (20-12) broke a 36-all score midway into the final period and pulled away to a 49-43 Class 6A playoff win.

The victory likely rewards Pearland with second-round matchup against unbeaten Beaumont United.

“Before the game, we talked about our effort being contagious,” Martens said. “If one person gets us started, then everybody else can feed off of that.

“Nyla Brown scored our first basket and then Kyah Barlow hit a big three, and we were just intense the rest of the way. (Kaylie) Kovach (junior post) really stepped up, and the girls maintained their focus the entire game.”

Pearland senior guard Macey Braswell scored 11 of her team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter in fueling the Lady Oilers.

After Clear Lake’s America Llanes scored on a short jumper to knot the game at 36 with 4:54 left, Kovach put in a short banker before Braswell buried a trey from the corner for a 41-36 Pearland lead with 4:02 showing.

That would be the last basket for the Lady Oilers, but it didn’t prove costly because of Pearland’s harassing defense and its effectiveness at the free throw line.

The Lady Oilers limited Lake to just one field goal in the closing 4:54 in maintaining the lead the remainder of the game.

After Lady Falcon guard Savannah Lyde made one of two free throws to bring Lake within 41-37 with 3:47 left, Braswell made two free throws at the 3:09 mark for a 43-37 score.

With 2:44 left, Pearland junior guard Barlow added two free throws for a 45-37 cushion at the 2:44 mark.

The Lady Falcons couldn’t free themselves for perimeter shots while the Pearland defense continually collapsed on Lake post Tara Kessner in trying to create havoc for the Lady Falcons’ leading scorer.

As a result, Pearland forced low-percentage shots and came up with numerous turnovers, enabling it to milk the clock down the stretch in securing the win.

“We kind of got rattled early,” Lake head coach Kirby Killingsworth said. “We stumbled around and finally found our feet, but Pearland just kept coming at us.

“It seemed like every time we would make a run, they would just make a basket. They were really physical and aggressive with Tara, and we didn’t take advantage of the foul count early on. We didn’t take the ball to the hole, which would have allowed us to shoot free throws. They fouled a lot and it worked out well for them.”

Clear Lake led 11-10 after the first quarter, despite Pearland jumping to a 6-1 lead. Kessner scored 10 points in the opening period, but would only score seven more the remainder of the game.

Pearland surged to 24-20 halftime lead as reserve post Kovach scored eight points in the second quarter, most of them coming from point-blank range, resulting from lobs over the Lake defense.

In the third quarter, Pearland built a 30-22 lead on impressive drives to the basket by Jasmin Allen and Barlow, but Lake put itself right back in the game when sophomore Casey Batten nailed consecutive 3-pointers for a 30-28 score heading into the final period.

Pearland then reasserted itself in claiming the victory.

“(Kessner) is kind of the head of their snake,” Martens said of Clear Lake. “We had three or four different posts rotating in on her on defense to try and wear her out.

“She’s a great player, and we knew we had to play tough defense. We couldn’t be prouder.

Pearland made 8 of 10 free throws in the final period to stymie a Lake comeback.

“Barlow (4-4 free throws) is shooting 80 percent on the season, so I was very confident when she was at the line,” Martens said. “A huge win…hopefully this gives the girls some confidence, and we’ll give it our best shot next round.”

Killingsworth was obviously disappointed with the first-round exit.

“Anytime you lose, the last one always hurts,” she said. “Pearland just made a few more extra plays than we did. Just because they lost their big kid…they’ve still got a lot of great players. I thought they worked extremely hard.

“There are no more games for these seniors or this team. We started two sophomores and have two sophomores off the bench. We’ll regroup and get ready for next year - that’s kind of the way this business works.”

tdunnam@hcnonline.com

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