Though the deficit continued to grow throughout the second half, Slidell continued to hustle on the court. That showed a lot about the young Lady Hounds, who had their return to the postseason abruptly ended Saturday night.
Kendall Bain had 19 points. and Haylee Clover scored 16, as Saltillo defeated Slidell 67-39 in the Class A Division II Region III area-round game at Blue Ridge High School.
“(My girls) are a high-character bunch with no quit in them,” said Slidell coach Cody Vanover. “They had a moment during a timeout when they had to regain their focus.
“They are young and that’s part of growing and maturing, especially when you have no seniors. Saltillo is tough, well-coached and a handful.”
Saltillo (22-11), the state runner-up last year, advanced to a regional quarterfinal rematch with Campbell, a 52-46 winner on Friday over Dodd City.
Caitlin Pruett’s 19 points led Slidell (17-8), as they made the postseason for the first time since reaching the regional tournament three straight times between 2010 and 2012. Vanover is in his 11th year at the school.
With Pruett being one of four juniors, underclassmen otherwise dominate the Lady Hounds’ 11-member roster.
She provided the bulk of Slidell’s offense in the first half, scoring eight in each quarter.
Her first two scores gave Slidell their only advantage at 2-0 and tied the game at four in the first quarter, before Saltillo added the next five points to get the lead for good.
Pruett cut the deficit to three twice afterward, 9-6 and 11-8, in the first quarter on a pair of free throws and a score off the glass.
Slidell pulled within two on sophomore Megan Garcia’s late putback, but a 3-pointer gave Saltillo a 15-10 lead after one quarter.
Saltillo took nine-point leads three times during the first three-plus minutes of the second quarter, prior to a 6-0 run by the Lady Hounds.
Junior Marisol Millan hit two free throws, then Pruett did likewise and had a putback to cut the deficit to 23-20.
Saltillo followed with a 3-pointer to start an 8-0 run during a 48-second span, building the lead to 11.
Baskets by Millan and Pruett cut the deficit back to nine twice before Saltillo added two of the final three points for a 35-25 halftime lead.
An 8-1 run to start the third gave Saltillo a lead in the teens for the remainder of the quarter.
Two free throws by freshman Kayler Talamantes stopped the surge with 5:07 left in the third, as Slidell scored all but one of its points in the quarter from that moment forward.
Freshman Brooklyn Rambsel had two points for Slidell in the fourth quarter, but the deficit grew even higher.
“We’ll have a better feeling in a couple of weeks than now,” Vanover said. “We talked about just don’t use the frustration you have now as motivation.
“Use the thought of walking on the floor in Austin,” he said. “Too many times you focus on how it ended, but sometimes you need to use something pretty and nice.”