It’s been a busy week for Terri White.
The Levelland girls basketball coach has watched her team continue its surge through the second half of the District 2-3A season into the playoffs with a pair of impressive wins, including eliminating two-time defending state champion Abilene Wylie on Friday. Then, on Sunday, she stood on the floor of United Spirit Arena at halftime of the Lady Raiders’ win over Texas, being honored with the 1993 Texas Tech team that won the women’s national championship, a team for which she was a graduate assistant coach.
Being on that floor gave her a good look at where she’ll be at 7 p.m. today when she takes her streaking Loboettes (23-12) into the Class 3A regional quarterfinals against a very familiar opponent, 2-3A co-champion and eighth-ranked Cooper (30-4), with a berth in the regional tournament at stake.
“It’s been a very exciting week,” White said. “Great things have been happening and I wouldn’t change them for the world.”
Great things have been happening for the Loboettes for the past month. That’s when Levelland’s season did a complete 180-degree turn after it looked like another season would end without a playoff berth.
But a 35-30 win at Estacado became the spark White was looking for, and the Loboettes have won seven of their last eight beginning with that game against the Lady Matadors. That included beating Estacado a second time to earn the third seed from 2-3A.
“They just flipped a switch and have taken off,” White said. “It seems like every time we step on the floor we continue to get better and better. We definitely know that at this time of the year it’s about being hot at the right time, playing your best basketball at this time. But we also talk about the mental toughness it takes to be in the playoffs and I feel all three things are definitely in our favor right now.”
Levelland will need at least one more night of everything coming together to solve a team which it lost two twice already in the regular season.
Cooper swept the season series from Levelland, winning a low-scoring affair (34-21) at Cooper on Jan. 11 then outlasting the Loboettes (59-55) on Jan. 27 in Levelland.
Lady Pirates’ head coach Trent Hilliard knows how hard it is to beat a team three times in one year, but also knows this is not the same Levelland team his girls have faced the two times previous.
“They’ve found more offense,” Hilliard said. “Their defense has been outstanding all year ... but they weren’t winning those games. They’re starting to hit some big shots and find ways to score when they absolutely need a basket.”
Much the same can be said about the Lady Pirates, who have won 14 of their last 16 coming into the game. Those two losses came against Shallowater and Estacado, both of which Cooper beat in two other meetings this season
Like Levelland, the Lady Pirates have excelled at finding ways to win for the majority of the season, setting a new school single-season victory record. Hilliard said his team has shown the mental focus needed to be successful in the playoffs.
“They understand that each possession is even more valuable now, both on the offensive and defensive ends,” Hilliard said. “Every time you can create a turnover for one team or eliminate a turnover on your team, those become big things. We’ve really cut down on the turnovers and made better choices with the basketball, and that allows us to play with more confidence.”
Other girls games
■ Shallowater (28-4) could make it two area teams in the Class 3A regional tournament with a win over a tough Perryton squad, ranked 21st in the state, that won District 1-3A with a 25-4 record. The Rangerettes had a first-round bye before destroying Midland Greenwood 70-49 on Friday. The No. 10 Fillies, however, have mowed through the competition in the first two rounds, winning by an average of 45 points over Dalhart and Clint.
■ Fifth-ranked Coronado tries to move one step closer to the state tournament but has a pesky Southlake Carroll (23-9) team waiting today at 6:30 p.m. at Kimbrell Arena in Abilene. After cruising through District 2-5A play, the Lady Mustangs have had some struggles in the postseason, falling behind El Paso El Dorado early before storming back for the win, then managing just 40 points offensively while holding Arlington Martin to 26. A win would pit Coronado against either Flower Mound Marcus (29-7) or No. 13 Mansfield Timberview (31-5) in the first round of the regional tournament in Fort Worth.
■ Smyer (29-6) has quietly gone about its business in the postseason with a pair of impressive wins and now faces District 5-IA winner Springlake-Earth (22-7) in the regional quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. at Coronado. The 11th-ranked Lady Cats’ two wins in the playoffs have come by an average of 28.5 points per game.
Boys get in gear
The boys playoffs get into full motion today with a bevy of area games, including in Class 4A where old district foes meet for a shot at the next round.
■ Longtime 5A rivals Amarillo (18-11) and Lubbock High (14-18) get together at 7 p.m. at Amarillo High. The Westerners had a solid second half of District 4-4A to claim a tie for third with Monterey, then losing a coin flip to settle for the fourth seed.
■ Frenship goes into the playoffs following a bit of a stumble in the regular-season finale. The Tigers won district with a big win over Plainview on Feb. 8, then lost to San Angelo Lake View on Tuesday. Frenship (24-9) will take on Randall (13-7), the fourth seed from 3-4A, at 6:30 p.m. in Dimmitt, followed by Plainview (18-14) vs. Palo Duro (19-8) at 8 p.m.
■ With Seminole earning a bye, only two area teams will play tonight in the Class 3A playoffs. While Cooper (14-16) played Monday, Estacado (13-17), maybe the hottest boys team in the area over the last month, takes on Dalhart (20-6) at Palo Duro.
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