LONGVIEW, Texas—Liberty-Eylau awaited a rematch with Mabank for 363 days. The Lady Leopards' patience paid big dividends.
L-E avenged last year's first-round loss to the Lady Panthers with an 11-point win Monday at Spring Hill's Panther Gym in a Class 4A bi-district playoff basketball game.
The Leopards built a commanding lead in the first half and, despite a cold-shooting third quarter, were never seriously challenged in the second half during a 58-47 win.
"After we prayed in the locker room before the game, I told the girls that the key to winning this game was making them play our tempo," said Aquanetta Watson, who picked up her first playoff win as head coach with the victory. "From the tipoff we made them play Liberty-Eylau basketball.
"Our press (defense) worked really well in the first half; we could've forced a few more turnovers in the second half. But to start out like that, in a game where the tables and roles were pretty much reversed last year, I couldn't be more proud of these girls."
Liberty-Eylau (22-11) ended up firing 35 percent on 21-of-60 shooting. L-E held a 44-37 advantage in rebounding and forced 24 turnovers while committing 19.
Mabank, which ends its season at 13-18, finished with a 33 shooting percent on 16 of 49 from the floor.
Leopard senior Taylor Crabtree ripped the cords for 24 points to lead all scorers. Eliyah Howard (11 points), Skylier Bailey (10) and Kaliyah Thompson (8) combined for 29 points for L-E.
Down 18 after halftime, the Panthers climbed back into the game with a 21-8 rally during the third quarter, when Liberty-Eylau converted just 2 of 20 field goal attempts.
The Leopards came out roaring to start the game, building a 9-2 lead, going up 12-4 and holding a 20-8 advantage at the end of the first quarter, with Crabtree scoring 12 points in the period for L-E.
With the final bucket of the first, Liberty-Eylau rattled off a 10-0 run to carry over into the second quarter, extending its lead to 28-8. Eight different Leopards scored in the first half to help their team take a 36-14 lead into intermission.
L-E shot 47 percent from the floor (14 of 30) in the first half, and the Panthers had a 25 shooting percentage on 6-of-24 shooting.
"To get my first playoff win and the girls' first playoff win was a big step," Watson said. "This group of seniors hadn't won a playoff game, in any sport, and I feel like they came out and responded well.
"Me and my coaching staff have been preaching to them all week long to start off fast, make them play our game and we'll see what happens at the end of the game. We'll get ready for Round 2 and go to work tomorrow."
Brianna Martin led Mabank with 20 points, and Elizabeth Hardy added 11 points.
Keeley Norris led Liberty-Eylau on the glass with eight rebounds, Derrica Henderson had seven and Crabtree six boards.
Mabank 8 6 21 12 — 47
Liberty-Eylau 20 16 8 14 — 58
MABANK (47): Martin 8 2-3 20, D. Neighbors 1 0-0 2, Hardy 2 6-7 11, German 2 3-4 7, Sullivan 1 0-0 3, Lusk 1 0-0 2, Davenport 1 0-0 2, TOTALS 16-49 11-14 47.
L-E (58): Crabtree 10 4-7 24, Ke. Norris 1 0-2 2, Howard 5 0-3 11, Henderson 0 1-3 1, Thomas 0 1-2 1, K. Thompson 2 4-4 8, Bailey 3 3-4 10, Meadows 0 1-2 1, A. Thompson 0 0-2 0, TOTALS 21-60 14-29 58.
3-point goals: MBK-Martin 2, Hardy, Sullivan; LE-Howard, Bailey. Team fouls: Mabank 23, Liberty-Eylau 14.