Canyon’s Kenadee Winfrey (2) goes in for a layup against Bridgeport during the Region I-4A final in Childress on Tuesday. [Jose Contreras/ Press Pass Sports]
CHILDRESS— It showed that the Canyon Lady Eagles were a year older and a year wiser Tuesday night, even with the same old new name leading them on the sideline.
A year after a heartbreaking loss to Argyle ended their season, the Lady Eagles faced Bridgeport in the Class 4A region final looking to secure their first trip to the state semifinals in four years, an eternity for one of the top programs in the state. When a seemingly comfortable lead began melting away in the fourth quarter, they iced it at the free throw line.
Canyon made 9-of-11 free throws and held off Bridgeport 42-37, continuing the highly successful debut season of alum Tate Lombard, who’s showing signs of being able to fill the shoes of his legendary father Joe, who coached the Lady Eagles for 35 seasons and 13 state championships.
Last season Canyon (29-1) fell to Argyle in the region semifinals thanks in part to some missed free throws in the fourth quarter. This time, the charity stripe is what won the game for the Lady Eagles, who will play Pinkston in the state semifinals Friday or Saturday.
”Just being in a close game like that last year where we missed free throws and we didn’t execute the way we needed to in the fourth quarter, just hats off to our kids who’ve been working really hard to win a game like this,” said Tate Lombard, who was an assistant to Joe last year after winning two state titles of his own at Wall.
Bridgeport (20-8) only led briefly in the opening minutes and for much of the evening the Lady Eagles knocked the Sissies off their stride offensively. If it hadn’t been for Jade Hall coming off the bench for a game-high 16 points, including five 3-pointers, Bridgeport wouldn’t have been in the game at all.
Still, the Sissies were anything but in terms of hanging in the game, as Canyon led only 21-13 at halftime while having a tough time converting inside opportunities.
Offense was hard to come by for both teams in the third quarter. Canyon had only eight points in the period, six from Taylor Thomas, who presaged the fourth quarter by hitting all four of her free throws.
“I told the girls at halftime this is not my last game with you,” said Thomas, a junior who along with senior Chloe Callahan led the Lady Eagles with 12 points. “It’s all (injured senior) Kyla Cobb. She told me at the beginning of the game ‘Taylor, if you don’t hit two or three shots in a row it’s on you. You’ve got to go score.’”
Canyon led 29-19 heading into the fourth quarter and led by as many as 12. But Hall hit three 3-pointers in the quarter as in the final minutes Bridgeport twice cut the deficit to two.
But Thomas made 3-of-5 free throws and Zoey McBroom made 4-of-4 to give the Lady Eagles some cushion, as the Sissies never had an opportunity to tie or take the lead.
“Both teams were really experienced coming in,” Lombard said. “Bridgeport had their whole team back from last year too and they were a team we knew we had to play well against and they were a team we knew we’d see again at some point. I’m just proud of our kids who executed and made big plays down the stretch to win it.”
It was Canyon’s closest win of the season.
“We hadn’t been in a game like this, especially down the stretch,” Lombard said. “Our kids didn’t feel like it was too big for them.”
Canyon 6 21 29 42
Bridgeport 4 13 19 37
C— Chloe Callahan 12, Taylor Thomas 12. B—Jade Hall 16, Lexine Stone 6, Ashley Ingram 6. Records: Canyon 29-1; Bridgeport 20-8.