After the Paradise Lady Panthers basketball team captured their first playoff win in more than a decade Wednesday night, the excitement was palpable.
The Panthers beat the Godley Lady Cats 70-65 in the Class 2A Region 2 bi-district playoff game at the Weatherford High School gym. Following the win, the girls rallied around each other and hoisted the trophy as the packed Panther fan base showered them with accolades.
“That was a big one,” said Paradise head coach Kevin Pope as his players were still celebrating on the court behind him. “A playoff win has been a big obstacle to overcome. Hopefully this will not only help us in the next game, but in the next few seasons as these girls continue to play. We only have three seniors, and we hope this success continues.”
Senior Makenna Burt piled up 24 points, dominating the paint in the high-scoring affair. Burt also shot 80 percent from the free throw line, hitting eight of 10. Paradise was 19-for-31, 61 percent, from the line. Those points were needed in a game where the Lady Cats stayed on Paradise’s heels all night.
Godley trailed but kept it close, and tied it at 52 with less than five minutes to play.
The Lady Cats offense was led by freshman phenom Makaila Tyer. Althought the shortest player on the court, Tyer led all scorers with 25 points and shot almost 50 percent from the field. The next top shooters for Godley were junior guard Leanna James and sophomore guard Maci Forsythe, who had eight each.
“Our defense wasn’t as good as it usually is, but a lot of that had to do with their scheme,” Pope said. “Mark Cheveuax (Godley’s head coach) is a good coach and had a good scheme against us. They got open shots, and they hit ’em.”
But Paradise fired back.
With a slim 61-59 lead with just under two minutes to play, junior guard Courtney Kerr dropped a jumper for two. Kerr finished with 16 points. A moment later junior forward Jett Preather stole the ball and hurled it downcourt to a wide-open Burt waiting under the board.
Senior guard Makala Neighbors sank a pair of free throws late to seal the game. Neighbors accounted for 15 points, including six-of-nine from the free throw line. Guard Kaylee McConnel also hit two crucial free throws in the final minute. The junior finished with eight total points and shot 75 percent from the field.
Players off the bench helped spark Paradise throughout the game. Preaether had six rebounds, two steals and scored four. Sophomore guard Aliyah Read scored three on an and-one play.
“I thought we played intelligently,” Pope said. “I thought we played hard. The team adjusted to the game plan even though Godley threw multiple defenses at us.”
Paradise (24-6) played Sunnyvale Friday night. The Lady Raiders were District 12-2A champions and had a perfect 31-0 record after beating Whitesboro 71-32 Monday night.