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The Paris Lady Cats collected their first playoff win in three seasons Wednesday night with a 46-35 bi-district victory over the Emory Rains Wildcats in a game played before about 200 fans in the cavernous new Anna High School gym.
The Lady Cats, now 19-9 for the season, advance to the area round where they will meet District 16-3A champion Kilgore in a game tentatively set for Friday at Mount Pleasant. Rains’ season ends at 13-14.
The road certainly gets no easier for Paris whose superior quickness had Rains clearly frustrated and on the verge of collapse, trailing by 13 (29-16) midway through the third quarter. But Rains County school used an 11-0 run, fueled by full-court pressure and 10 straight misses by Paris at the foul line, to pull within a bucket, 29-27, with 5:45 remaining in the game.
The Lady Cats awoke in time to finish with a 17-8 flurry as senior post Nish Robins muscled inside for 9 of her game-high 13 points and Paris finished with a 7-for-8 showing at the foul line to close out the win.
It was evident from the opening tip that the Rains girls would have problems overcoming Paris’ tight defense as the District 14 No. 3 seed took some unslightly forced shots and bled turnovers on offense. The Lady Cats took the lead for good, 8-7, on a steal and fast-break basket by Luey Bronner.
Still, Paris was unable or unwilling to work the ball inside and settled for long-range shots that misfired. Paris led by only 9-7 at the first break and had a 22-14 halftime lead, thanks partly to an ill-advised foul on Jazz Pipkins as she attempted an NBA 3-pointer. Pipkins drained all 3 foul shots.
Katelyn Looney started the second half with a 3-pointer, and the Lady Cats appeared to be headed toward a blowout when Rains, behind seniors Shye Meador-McCray and Cortney Anderson, quickly whittled the lead to 29-25 heading into the final period.
As the Lady Cats continued to toss bricks at the foul line, Rains cut the lead to 2, 29-27, when Bronner started to assert herself in a key playmaking role. She was fouled, and the Lady Cats’ most reliable foul shooter stopped the slide with a pair of free ones.
After Rains again trimmed the lead to a couple, Robins got a putback, Jaz Pipkins canned a pair at the line, and Bronner feed Robins in the paint for another basket that stretched the lead back to a more comfortable 37-29 with just under 4 minutes left.
Two foul shots and a drive by Meador-McCray pulled Rains back to within 37-33, but a 7-0 flurry by Paris finally put the game away. The run included a strong drive to the bucket by Pipkins, a 3-point play by Robins off another Bronner assist and two more free throws from Pipkins.
It was suddenly a 44-33 advantage with just 1:21 remaining and time for Paris officials to start planning ahead to the next round.
Robins and Pipkins were the only Paris players in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively. Looney finished with 8 and helped spark the Lady Cats offense to life in the second quarter along with fellow point guard Mae Council.
Meador-McCray topped Rains with 10 points.
By: Tim Taylor