GIRLS HOOPS: The Woodlands tops Magnolia to win Hoop Fest title
MAGNOLIA – Emma Warnsman may be new to The Woodlands girls basketball program this season, but it was the junior forward who did the most damage for the Lady Highlanders Friday afternoon as they defeated Magnolia in the inaugural Holiday Hoop Fest championship game.
Both teams breezed through pool play and the Gold Bracket semifinals with 4-0 records to create a matchup between Montgomery County schools that hadn’t met on the hardwood since 2008. But it was the Lady Highlanders who ultimately prevailed with a 42-35 victory, thanks in large part to 13 fourth-quarter points from Warnsman.
“It was big,” The Woodlands coach Trista Tatsch said of the win. “I’m really happy to check this off our list of goals going into district play. I think it helps them feel confident going in, and I really think it’s going to be a big boost for us.”
Warnsman led the way for the Lady Highlanders (16-6) with 25 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field and a perfect 11-for-11 performance at the free-throw line. She also added seven rebounds.
After trailing by one point at halftime, The Woodlands entered the fourth quarter with a 29-27 lead. Warnsman immediately made it a two-possession game after she was fouled on a made layup and knocked down the ensuing free throw.
The Lady Highlanders went up by as many as seven points in the final frame, but a big 3-pointer from Magnolia senior guard Kaylie King cut the advantage down to four 2:24 on the clock.
Following a turnover by The Woodlands, senior forward Katie Dalton hit a free throw to make it a one-possession game with 1:38 to go.
With a chance to tie, the Lady Bulldogs (13-7) committed a turnover of their own, and Warnsman did the rest as she connected on four free throws in the final 15 seconds to put the game out of reach.
“We finally found a group there at the beginning of the fourth that was playing some good defense and getting some stops,” Tatsch said. “I think that was key. It was kind of a weird little lineup for us, but it seemed to work and give us the momentum going into the end of the game.”
Along with Warnsman, senior forward Luisa De La Rosa and junior forward Madison Morton were also key contributors on the boards, finishing with eight and seven rebounds, respectively.
De La Rosa, Morton and senior forward Janice Gabriel were also tasked with trying to limit Magnolia’s go-to players – senior forwards Alexus Wykoff and Katie Dalton, who each finished with a team-high 12 points. Wykoff added seven rebounds and Dalton had six.
After leading for the majority of the game, Magnolia coach Erika Ritter said her team simply made too many mistakes down stretch to catch the Lady Highlanders.
“We went 3-for-10 at the free-throw line, and The Woodlands went 13-for-17,” she said. “The point differential was seven, and that’s seven points right there. I thought we played hard, and I thought we played well. There were just some unforced turnovers, and then missing some shots in the paint. I thought that was the difference.”
With the tournament now over, both teams will shift their focus to their crosstown rivals. The Lady Bulldogs will resume District 20-5A play at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Magnolia West. The Woodlands, meanwhile, will open District 12-6A play at 7 p.m. Friday at College Park.
“I thought we played some good competition in this tournament, and The Woodlands is a great team,” Ritter said. “I thought we were focused and ready to play. But when you play a quality team like The Woodlands, those little things matter. I think that’s what we’re going to learn from this tournament.”
Montgomery falls to Alvin
Montgomery (3-15) lost its final game of the tournament Friday morning, falling to Alvin in the Silver Bracket finals, 63-38. The Lady Bears went 1-3 at the Hoop Fest and will be back in action at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday as they host College Station for a non-district matchup.