By Richard Greene
The Millsap Lady Bulldogs found no answer for the Paradise Lady Panthers’ Makenna Burt in the paint Tuesday.
Burt poured in 22 points leading the Lady Panthers to a 48-41 victory in the District 10-2A opener.
“It was big and pretty exciting to go to 1-0,” Burt said. “We’ll go play Brock on Friday.”
Along with picking up the district-opening win, the Lady Panthers improved to 11-6 on the season.
“This is big for the program to be sitting her at 11-6,” said Paradise coach Eddie Fortenberry, who rejoined the Lady Panthers’ bench this year after stops in Lake Dallas and Bridgeport. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed we’d be here. This is huge for these kids.”
Burt was huge for the Lady Panthers as she knocked down nine field goals and finished 4 of 7 at the free-throw line. Burt scored 10 in the third quarter, helping Paradise out to a 38-30 lead.
She said her teammates were doing a good job of working the ball inside to her.
“Ever since the first game, we’ve progressed and been getting the ball inside more,” Burt said.
Fortenberry said the six-foot Burt will be a tough matchup for most of the teams they play.
“When we keep her out of foul trouble and on the floor, there’s not many teams that will have an answer for her,” Fortenberry said.
The Lady Panthers also hit a pair of three-pointers — one each from Kaylee McConnell and Makala Neighbors — to keep Millsap from collapsing on Burt. McConnell had 10 points for Paradise.
“We spread the floor on them,” Fortenberry said. “We wanted them to defend our guards.”
Paradise built the lead to 12, 42-30, with five minutes remaining.
The Lady Panthers had troubles closing out the win. Millsap forced six Paradise turnovers and got within four, 45-41, on a Lauren Power putback with 28 seconds left.
Neighbors stopped a 6-1 run by Millsap, hitting a free throw with 24.5 ticks remaining stretching the Lady Panthers’ lead to five. Two more free shots by McConnell after a defensive stop sealed the win.
“This team is not going to win easy,” Fortenberry said. “But it’s a fun team to watch and fun team to coach.”