Cowgirls end historic season in chaotic round three loss to South Grand Prairie

Meer Mahfuz, Staff Writer

IRVING — All looked well for the Coppell girls basketball team after the first quarter last night. The Cowgirls took a seven-point lead into the second quarter and was riding a wave of confidence offensively and defensively. 

All it would take is three crucial turnovers late in the second quarter, where South Grand Prairie cut the Cowgirls lead to one point, to turn the Class 6A Region I regional quarterfinals upside down for the Cowgirls. 

Riding a wave of newfound confidence and rhythm in the second half, South Grand Prairie defeated the Cowgirls, 56-49, last night at Ranchview in the third round of playoffs. 

The Class 6A No. 4 Cowgirls (37-2) ends their historic season as Class 6A Region I regional quarterfinalists while No. 5 South Grand Prairie (32-4) advances to the Class 6A Region I regional semifinals.  

The opening quarter of the game was a game of trading runs. The Cowgirls raced out to a 9-6 lead over the Warriors within four minutes, paced by seven points from junior guard Jules LaMendola. The Warriors matched the Cowgirls for the next three and a half minutes by going on a 6-5 run. Sophomore guard Ella Spiller’s three free throws with under a minute to play gave the Cowgirls a 18-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. 

“Defensively, we had them out of rhythm; we were doing a great job pressuring them, and they were really struggling,” Coppell coach Ryah Murphy said. 

The Cowgirls expanded their lead to 12 points, aided by a pair of 3-pointers from junior guard Waverly Hassman, with 4:12 left to play in the first half. The remainder of the second quarter was all South Grand Prairie, however. The Warriors went on a 13-2 run, helped by six points off of turnovers from the Cowgirls, cutting Coppell’s lead to 30-29 at halftime. 

“We had some undisciplined turnovers, we weren’t making passes and it let them get some easy points,”  Murphy said. 

The Warriors took the lead for the first time by scoring a layup to open the second half. The Cowgirls quickly retook the lead and would keep it until there was 2:36 left in the third quarter. A pair of 3-pointers from South Grand Prairie senior guard Victoria Dixon gave the Warriors a 46-40 lead at the end of the third quarter.

 “Once they see the ball go into the hoop, it boosts their confidence up and we never really created that defensive pressure the rest of the game,” Murphy said.  

The Cowgirls opened the first six minutes of the fourth quarter by going on a 9-4 run to cut their deficit to one point. However, the Warriors were able to go into bonus and score four free throws and a floater to end the game, ending the Cowgirls’ season with it.

“It is one of those things that’s tough because you feel like you had them on the ropes and let them off the hook,” Murphy said.  “We have been in these situations a lot, we’re young, we’re returning a lot of them and it’s a learning moment.”

Dixon paced the Warriors with 20 points and senior guard Jahcelyn Hartfield chipped in 10 points while LaMendola and senior forward India Howard had 17 and 14 points, respectively, for the Cowgirls.

Despite the loss, the Cowgirls still recorded a historic season. The Cowgirls tallied the most wins in a season, breaking a school record from the 1989 season, playing in their first playoff game in four years, won their first playoff game in 11 years and won a district championship for the first time in 11 years. 

“I’m so proud of everything we’ve done,” LaMendola said. “We turned this program around, we made history with these girls and I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else. “I’m so proud of them and I wouldn’t want to do it with any other girls; these girls are great people and I love them. They’re my family and they’re my sisters; we fought hard together this whole season and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

The Cowgirls only graduate one starter in Howard and will return four starters as well as multiple role players off the bench to improve on such a season.

“We learned a valuable lesson and we’re going to come back stronger next year,” LaMendola said. “It’s only up from here, that’s all I can say; we’re coming back better than this year.”

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