The Howe Lady Bulldogs (23-10) finish the season as only the second girls basketball team in school history to become area champions. Howe, who had an 11-point lead in the early parts of the fourth period could not stave off the elevated temperature of a desperate Mineola (27-8) team in the final minutes of the game. Howe’s lead collapsed with 30-seconds remaining in the game when The Lady Jackets’ All-State guard Sabria Dean made a ball-fake move that would have made LeBron James blush and hit a 9-footer from the middle of the lane to give her team the lead, 36-35 which seconds later became the final score.
After Dean’s would-be game-winning shot, Howe still had a chance with 21.94 seconds remaining as Lands called a full timeout to gather a plan to score. With the ball in Jenna Honore’s hands on the right wing dribbling to the right corner with pressure from Jessiah Riley, the ball went off of Honore and out of bounds. This led to three quick desperation fouls to send Mineola to the line. During the second foul, Honore, the district defensive MVP, seemed to be in position to draw the charge on Dean, but a blocking call was made instead which virtually eliminated a serious threat for a last-second comeback. Dean missed her free throw which was rebounded by Honore who found the District 10-3A MVP Ally Harvey at halfcourt for a last-second heave from her hip that missed going in by a foot to the right. Soon afterward, an eruption from the crowd in orange and their head coach Troy Riley who ran to the Lady Jacket crowd and underarm flexed his muscles which sent the crowd into a frenzy.
This year’s version of longtime Head Coach Derek Lands’ team was built heavily around defense with five starters with exceptional abilities to lock-down their opponent. The individual matchup of Honore versus Dean proved to be the girls 3A basketball version of Ali-Frazier. Neither player left the floor for the entire game and as expected, the game came down to that matchup in the most meaningful final moments. Dean made the great ball-fake move to get Honore off balance for the go-ahead score and Honore answered back with an outstanding defensive drawn charge. The only problem for Howe was – the charge wasn’t called.
Howe started the game strong with Molly Wilson scoring the game’s first points. The Lady Bulldogs did a nice job early of breaking the quick Mineola press, meanwhile, Honore held Dean scoreless in the first as Howe led 9-6 after the first eight minutes of the game. Mineola had to rely on a 3-pointer by Meghan Brewington for half of the Lady Jackets first points.
As the second period began, Howe’s usually sharp-shooting long ball specialist Cassidy Anderson, named the district’s offensive MVP, started cold by missing on her first five 3-point attempts in the half. As Howe went cold, Dean began to heat up after starting 0-for-7 from the field scoring six of the Lady Jackets’ eight second period points.
Midway through the second with Howe clinging to a 5-point lead, 11-5, Anderson was subbed for sophomore Sierra Copeland and Wilson for sophomore Katie Grogan. Seconds later Dean hit her first two buckets of the game in back-to-back fashion to cut the Howe lead to 11-10. With three minutes remaining before the half, Honore fouled Dean on a 3-pointer which she made 2-of-3 foul shots to give the Lady Jackets a 14-13 lead which became the halftime score.
The Lady Bulldogs came out of the break with an outstanding third period scoring 20 points while allowing Mineola nine points. Howe’s offensive firepower came from a resurgence of Anderson and her 3-pointer as her first one tied the game at 16. Moments later, she drained her second 3-bomb from the same spot in the right corner to give Howe a 19-16 lead. After a foul shot by Mineola, Anderson again drained a 3-pointer to up Howe’s lead to 22-17.
Howe’s lead was cut to 22-21 with 4:33 remaining in the third, and the hot-shooting Anderson had to exit the game due to picking up her fourth foul. But the right corner 3-point hot spot for Anderson remained that way when Wilson drained a bomb from there to give Howe a 29-23 lead which forced a timeout by Mineola and a bench jumping, stands fist-pumping moment for Howe with 3:04 left in the third. The Lady Bulldogs led by 10 at the end of the third and had clear momentum headed to the final frame as Honore held the all-state Mineola guard to only seven points through the first three quarters.
Anderson checked back in the game with four fouls as Honore extended Howe’s lead on a foul shot to 11 at 34-23 with 6:52 left in the game. The 11-point lead held until 5:27 left when Dean hit a runner to start the comeback. Mineola called a timeout and at that very moment, they became the dangerous desperate team that every coach fears. Coming out of the timeout, their defensive press was stepped up along with the intensity. Howe senior point guard Calley Vick was called for an unusual travel call and Wilson was called for the non-often called carry which was a questionable call. At that moment with 4:43 remaining, the game changed. Mineola’s Tahjae Black rebounded a Dean errant 3-pointer and put it back up to cut the Howe lead to seven. She was fouled on the put-back and her successful free throw made it 34-28.
Seconds later, Vick had the ball stolen and an easy layup made it a 4-point game. Vick then attempted a 3-pointer which was no good and rebounded by Mineola who made a long pass down the court for the easy layup by Black to make it a 2-point game with 3:53 left. Mineola had captured clear momentum in less than two minutes. A Howe timeout brought out the first bodybuilder flex from Mineola’s head coach Riley.
For the next few minutes, the temperature rose on both sides and Mineola’s Riley was called for a technical foul after getting called for a travel. Vick made the first foul shot, but the second shot rimmed in and out to leave Howe with a 35-32 lead. The score remained the same until 2:20 left in the game when Dean’s layup rolled over the front of the rim to cut the game to 35-34.
With 1:52 remaining in the game, Wilson threw the inbound pass to Vick which slipped through her hands resulting in Dean taking it up the court for Mineola. Several missed shots resulted in a loose ball with Harvey trying to tie it up, but was called for a foul which gave the ball back to Mineola.
With less than a minute left, it was Dean who was able to complete the ball-fake and go ahead shot to eventually win it.
Howe was led in points by Harvey with 12, followed by Anderson’s nine. Other scorers were Honore (6), Wilson (5), and Vick (3).
Harvey also pulled down an incredible 17 rebounds to lead Howe.
The Lady Bulldogs will lose two seniors in Calley Vick and Gianna Henry. Four starters will return as well as first team all-district members Sierra Copeland.