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Basketball: Paradise steals bi-district title

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, February 18, 2015
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Making their third straight playoff appearance, the Paradise Lady Panthers stole the show with their defense.

RISING TO CHALLENGE – Paradise senior Courtney Kerr hits shot for two of her 15 points in the Lady Panthers’ win over Gunter. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

They made 22 steals and forced 30 turnovers Monday night in their 56-32 victory over the Gunter Lady Tigers in the 3A Region II bi-district title game at the Denton High School’s Purple Pit.

“Our defense was great today,” said Paradise senior Courtney Kerr, who recorded nine steals to go along with a game-high 15 points. “We were reading the ball and jumping passes. We had our hands low and were able to backtip their dribbles. They could barely dribble past us.”

With the victory, Paradise moves on to face No. 1 Sunnyvale in the area round of the playoffs for a second straight season. No time, date or site for the game has been determined.

Sunnyvale knocked Paradise out of the playoffs last year and beat them at a tournament earlier this year.

“It’s a huge challenge. They are a great team,” Kerr said. “We played them in a tournament. We played them last year. We’ve got a ton of game film on them. We shouldn’t be nervous.”

From the opening tip Monday, Paradise had Gunter scrambling. Gunter used the first minute of the game passing the ball around the perimeter unable to find a shot.

Gunter finished with just nine field goals, shooting 31 percent (9-for-29). Gunter failed to hit a shot from the field in the fourth quarter, committing nine turnovers.

“[Defense is] what we’ve hung our hat on all year long,” said Paradise coach Kevin Pope. “The things about effort, we’re really good at. Defense is about effort.”

Ten different Lady Panthers registered steals led by Kerr’s nine as they harassed Gunter’s guards all night.

Pope credited his team’s preparation for getting the steals.

“Through scouting reports and film, we felt they were pretty right-handed with their dribble,” Pope said. “We just tried to attack their right hand and keep after them. Even when they went to their left, we felt it was coming back there. That helped us with a lot of our backtips.”

Its defensive play helped dig Paradise out of an early 7-2 hole. The Lady Panthers forced four turnovers in the final 2:29 of the first quarter, going on a 10-0 run to take a 12-7 lead.

Paradise extended that run to 21-2 on Jett Preather’s 3-point play with 2:38 left in half that put it up 23-9.

Preather joined Kerr in double figures with 11.

The Lady Panthers led 25-14 at the break.

Kerr’s 3-pointer and steal that led to a transition layup in the opening two minutes of the second half built Paradise’s lead back to 14.

“[Kerr] and the other seniors have been our nucleus – our heart and soul – all year long,” Pope said. “It was good to see them all have a good playoff game.”

After Gunter had pulled within 10, Paradise ended the third quarter with an 8-0 run to go up 42-24.

The lead grew to 24, 51-27, early in the fourth with April Coursey’s 3-pointer and layup. She scored seven off the bench.

The Paradise bench outscored Gunter’s reserves 19-2.

“The strength of our team is the fact we’re not limited to five or six players,” Pope said.

PARADISE 56, GUNTER 32

Gunter … 7 … 7 … 10 … … 8 – 32
Paradise … 12 … 13 … 17 … 14 – 56

Gunter (14-20) – Mackenzie Mazerolle 10, Bree Adkins 7, Madison Richmond 1, Rylee Hestand 4, Sarah Franze 1, Connor Clement 9.

Paradise (27-6) – Jett Preather 11, April Coursey 7, Kaylee McConnell 8, Taylor Richards 3, Courtney Kerr 15, Madi Horne 6, Amber French 6.

Rebounding: Gunter 23 (Adkins 7); Paradise 35 (Preather 7, Kerr 5).

3-point shooting: Gunter 1-12 (Mazerolle); Paradise 2-9 (Kerr and Coursey)

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