ANSON — Despite having to battle both a severe case of playoff nerves and a scrappy Burkburnett squad, the Big Spring Lady Steers are playoff winners for the first time in more than a decade, thanks a 34-33 Class 3A bi-district win at the Anson Sports Center Tuesday night.
The Lady Steers earned that rare designation in perhaps the most difficult way possible: by surviving a game that was by turns agonizing and irritating — irritating for the Lady Steers, who couldn't seem to buy a basket for long stretches of the contest; and agonizing for the BSHS fans, who watched their team fend off countless Burkburnett rallies in the closing minutes.
A Cerbi Ritchey three-pointer midway through the second quarter gave the Lady Steers a lead they never relinquished, but Burkburnett played stalking tiger for the rest of the game, and came within an eyelash of winning the game in the closing moments.
Bridgette Tuitt drove the baseline for a short jumper to give the Lady Steers a three-point edge with 5:16 remaining, but those were the last BSHS points of the night. From that point, Big Spring would have to depend on its defense to deliver the long-awaited playoff victory.
And it was enough — barely.
Burkburnett's Macy Cooke hit a short jumper to bring the Lady Bulldogs to within a point with 2:20 remaining, but things didn't get really frantic until the last few seconds.
After Big Spring's McKenzie Stone missed the front end of a one-and-one with 20 seconds remaining, Burkburnett brought the ball downcourt and worked the ball inside to Cooke, who found herself about two feet away from a game-winning shot.
Hailley Land grabbed the rebound for the Lady Bulldogs and fired a shot.
Carissa Bounds grabbed the loose ball for Burkburnett and aimed for the basket.
Finally, Cooke had one last chance from point-blank range, but her attempt was off the mark, as well, the buzzer sounded and the Lady Steers celebrated with a mixture of joy and relief.
Ritchey, who led all scorers with 14 points, admitted the Lady Steers were never able to shake a bad case of the playoff jitters.
“I went through the same thing in the volleyball playoffs earlier this year,” she said. “You're shocked by the pressure if you're not prepared for it, and that was definitely the case tonight … We thought we should have been way ahead (in the game), but we just hung in there and fought and found a way to win it.”
BSHS Coach Mike Warren admitted that fortune smiled on his team Tuesday, but credited the Lady Steers' defense for that last, desperate stand that denied Burkburnett.
“We got a little lucky there at the end,” Warren said. “But with 30 seconds left, I told the girls that we had practiced defense all year, so just go and play defense for 30 more seconds, and that's what they did.”
The Lady Steers advance to face Decatur in the area round of the Class 3A playoffs. That game will be played at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Clyde.
Burkburnett 10 4 13 6 — 33
Big Spring 8 10 12 4 — 34
BURKBURNETT (33) — Christianah Ogunleye 2 0-0 4; Hailley Land 3 1-3 8; Ebanie Griffith 1 0-0 2; Carissa Bounds 1 0-0 2; Autumn Johnson 2 0-2 4; Presley Ford 3 0-0 7; Macy Cooke 2 2-2 6; totals 14 3-9 33.
BIG SPRING (34) — Ambra Hill 3 0-2 6; LaShaunta Anderson 1 0-0 3; Yeneira Tuitt 2 0-0 4; McKenzie Stone 0 0-1 0; Mary King 1 0-0 3; Bridgett Tuitt 1 0-0 2; Cerbi Ritchey 5 3-5 14; Diamond Mayes 1 0-0 2; totals 14 3-8 34.
Three-point goals — Burkburnett 2 (Land, Ford), Big Spring 3 (Anderson, King, Ritchey); Total fouls — Burkburnett 11, Big Spring 11; Fouled out — none.
LUBBOCK — The Big Spring boy's basketball team had some last-minute drama to deal with Tuesday, as well.
The Steers survived a late barrage of Nazareth three-pointers to take a 62-61 win over the Swifts at Lubbock Christian University Tuesday.
The Steers watched a 10-point lead disappear in the final minute thanks to the Swifts' long-range flurry, but Mac Segundo hit a free throw with no time left on the clock to secure the win for Big Spring.
Segundo scored 23 points and Tavaris Walker had 14 to pace the Seers, who ended the regular season with a 15-16 record.
“Nazareth just got hot there at the end and started firing it in from all over the place,” BSHS Coach Cliff Thompson said.
The Steers, who finished the season third in District 5-3A, advance to the state playoffs, where they'll face Burkburnett in a first-round game at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Eastland.