LUBBOCK– It’s usually the Canyon Lady Eagles who enter a big game with an outsized reputation and a target on their backs as the team to beat at the end of February.
That was really no different this season, only Saturday evening they ran into somebody who fit that description even better.
No. 4 Canyon faced the tall task of knocking off No. 1 Glen Rose in the Region I-4A championship game at Lubbock University’s Rip Griffin Center. The Lady Eagles showed they were up to the task but couldn’t quite pull it off, as Glen Rose held on for a 45-36 victory and a trip to the state tournament next week in San Antonio.
The final margin was the biggest lead either team held, indicating how evenly matched the two teams were. What may have been the biggest difference is that Canyon (30-4) had two very rough periods, scoring a total of six points in the second and fourth quarter to ultimately make the difference.
“We shot it really well the first and third quarters and the second quarter they went zone and it took us awhile to really get a rhythm,” Canyon coach Tate Lombard said. “We kind of figured that our at the half and got off to a good start in the third quarter. We didn’t execute in the fourth quarter when we got a little tired and didn’t make the shots we needed to make.”
The first half was both familiar and unfamiliar to those who saw Glen Rose (38-1) rout Canyon’s fellow CISD school Randall a night earlier in the region semifinal. It was unfamiliar in that Glen Rose managed only one 3-pointer in the first half, but familiar in that the Canyon school had a cold quarter, as the Lady Eagles scored only one point in the second quarter to trail 23-15 at halftime.
Canyon actually came out fairly hot from beyond the arc. The Lady Eagles hit three 3-pointers, two by Sydnee Winfrey, and took a 14-12 first quarter lead.
Glen Rose hit nine threes in the first of Friday’s 69-42 rout of Randall. But the Lady Tigers didn’t manage a single trey in the first quarter against Canyon.
“Whenever they get open they can make them,” Lombard said of the Lady Tigers. “You can pay so much attention to the big girls like (6-foot-4 post Aimee) Flippen, but they got downhill on us a few times and we lost them on some matchups. If there’s only one three coming in a game I’ll take it.”
The second quarter belonged to Glen Rose, which scored the last nine points of the quarter to take the halftime advantage. Sam Ellenberger hit the only 3-pointer of the game for the Lady Tigers during that run.
“We called that second timeout and said ‘Quit shooting threes right now, you’re not making them,’” said Glen Rose coach Ramsey Ghazal, who appropriately enough got his 600th career win to go to the state tournament. “We told them to get to the rim and our guards adjusted and started doing that a little better. We always say 3-point shooting’s a luxury. If it’s hitting great, if not we’ve got other ways to win.”
Meanwhile, Canyon couldn’t score from the floor during the quarter. Making matters worse, the Lady Eagles were 1-for-5 from the free throw line in that time.
But Canyon hung tough in the third quarter and at one point cut the margin to a single point. However, the Lady Eagles never matched Glen Rose and trailed 35-31 to set up what looked like a thrilling third quarter.
Canyon managed only one field goal in the fourth quarter, an off-balance jumper by sophomore Jaylee Moss. Glen Rose was able to take time off the clock and make some free throws for the final margin.
“It was a nine-point game which at one time was a one-point game and if we do a couple of things here or there it just changes the whole dynamic,” Lombard said. “I’m so proud of our kids. They played extremely hard. To be able to play in this game is a big deal.”
Canyon had only one player in double figures, as Winfrey, a sophomore, had 11 points.
It was the last game in a Canyon uniform for seven seniors, though. One of those was Winfrey’s older sister Abree, a senior who has a track scholarship to the University of Kansas.
As one of four sisters who has played basketball for Canyon’s storied program, Abree Winfrey grasped the significance of the moment.
“Man, it’s awesome,” Winfrey said. “There’s no better place to be than Canyon. To get to wear the jersey, there’s nothing better. I’m so proud. I never thought we were going to be here at the beginning of the season.”
Grace Booth and Alexis Rynders both had 12 points for Glen Rose. Rynders was named the region tournament’s most valuable player.
Glen Rose 12 23 35 45
Canyon 14 15 31 36
GR– Grace Booth 12, Alexis Rynders 12. C– Sydnee Winfrey 11, Shaylin Schulte 9. Records: Glen Rose 38-1; Canyon 30-4.