By Richard Greene
Over 29 seasons and 599 wins, Bridgeport coach Eddie Fortenberry learned that they all don’t look pretty and the ugly ones still count.
The Bridgeport Sissies fought through 32 minutes that featured 53 fouls and 66 turnovers to deliver the veteran coach No. 600 with a 50-39 victory over the West Lady Trojans Tuesday in the Class 3A Region I bi-district title game at Midlothian High School gym.
“It was an ugly win, but you take them,” Fortenberry said.
The coach will be taking his Sissies to the area round of the Class 3A playoffs for the third time in four years. Bridgeport (25-5) will play former district foe Burkburnett Friday at 7 p.m. in Bowie.
The Sissies are glad to be heading back to area and to help their coach to the impressive milestone.
“It’s really special,” said Bridgeport junior guard Audra Hart, who led all the Sissies with 17 points. “Not a lot of coaches get to say they’ve won 600 games. He’s a great coach and deserves it.”
The Sissies had trouble making sure Fortenberry wouldn’t have to wait until next year to get the win against West (15-17). Bridgeport turned the ball over 28 times and hit just 11 field goals.
Fortenberry said nerves played a part in the miscues.
“I was a little concerned because most of our kids had never been in a playoff game before,” he said. “We have two or three that have experience, but we’re really a young team.”
Bridgeport’s miscues cost them the 10-point advantage, 25-15, they took on a three-point play by Haley Meekins in the final 18.5 seconds of the first half.
Meekins, who fouled out with 57 seconds remaining in the game, posted a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. She scored all of her points before halftime.
West, who ended the first half with a basket to get within eight, extended the run to 10, tying the game a 25. They took the lead 28-27 when Amy Singh hit a three-pointer with 3:28 left in the frame.
Bridgeport committed six turnovers and had just one basket over the first four and half minutes of the second half.
“I can’t explain it, but the start of the first and third quarters we don’t come out well,” Fortenberry said.
West’s lead lasted nine seconds as Bridgeport senior Emily Price took the ball to the hole, for a layup and drew a foul a trip to the line. Price hit the free shot to give the Sissies the lead for good.
Price started a 9-1 run to end the third quarter and put Bridgeport up 36-29. She scored all but two of the points in the run.
“We’re all competitive and don’t like to lose,” Price said. “Once someone starts beating us, we retaliate.”
Price, who got a private chat with Fortenberry on the bench at the end of the first half, finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and five steals.
“I wasn’t playing my game; I was thinking too much,” Price said about the first half. “In the second half, I relaxed and played my game.”
Price also started driving the ball to the hole to get draw fouls and get to line. She went 9-for-11 from the foul line with a stretch of seven straight in the second half.
Hart followed Price’s lead in the fourth quarter. Her drive that resulted in a layup and foul shot for three points put Bridgeport back up 10, 43-33, with 3:47 left. She scored seven in the final frame.
Defensively, the Sissies were solid forcing West into 38 turnovers, including 12 in the first quarter. Meekins turned West’s turnover at mid-court into a buzzer-beating 18-foot jumper to give Bridgeport a 13-9 lead.
Bridgeport did have trouble at times containing West post Lacey McKenzie, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. No other West players reached double figures.
The Sissies’ goal now is to get No. 601 for Fortenberry anyway they can Friday.
Bridgeport 50, West 39
Bridgeport 13 12 11 14-50
West 9 8 12 10-39
Bridgeport (25-5) – Audra Hart 17, Macy Bishop 4, Leah Guinn 2, Haley Meekins 14, Emily Price 13.
West (15-17) – Hannah Sykora 2, Paige Snokhous 7, Amy Singh 5, Jordan Horn 3, Chandler Jarek 2, KK Poteet 1, Brooke Morrison 1, Brittany Chupik 1, Lacey McKenzie 17.