Desi Gonzales

Sanger center Desi Gonzales (33) shoots over Dallas Pinkston forward Tamia Flores and scores during Tuesday’s bi-district playoff game at Creekview High School. Pinkston won 51-44.

Staff Writer

CARROLLTON — After getting off to a brutally slow start against Dallas Pinkston on Tuesday night in the Class 4A bi-district round of the playoffs, Sanger stormed all the way back and eventually found itself in a tied game with 1:53 remaining in the fourth quarter.

But the Lady Indians, who struggled to match Pinkston’s speed in the backcourt, ran out of gas in the final minutes, and the Lady Vikings scored the game’s final seven points to claim a 51-44 victory at Carrollton Creekview High School.

Pinkston advances to take on Kennedale in the area round of the playoffs. Kennedale is coming off a 105-9 win against Irving Hills North Prep.

“It’s just unbelievable the fight these girls have,” first-year head coach Derek Hilliard said. “Considering our varsity experience is limited with just three girls having played at this level before, I think most teams would have just been overwhelmed and quit in this environment.

“But they didn’t. It’s been unbelievable to see the fight in these kids all year long. I’m just proud of them.”

Sanger trailed 17-6 late in the first quarter and struggled to move the ball down the court against Pinkston’s full-court pressure. But the Lady Indians settled down almost immediately to start the second and turned to sophomore guard Chloe Malone to ignite a comeback.

Malone scored nine points in the second, and Sanger closed the quarter on an 8-2 run to take a 23-20 lead into the half. The Lady Vikings’ only points in the frame came on three free throws — two from Tamia Flores and one from Kyla London.

Pinkston scored 18 points on 30 free throw attempts and was called for 10 fouls in the game while Sanger attempted only 10 free throws and was called for 21 fouls.

“They were a transition team, and we got back to where we were supposed to be,” Hilliard said. “That allowed us to slow them down, but then the transition is what got them back in the game. The speed and quickness was hard for us — we don’t see it in district, and it’s hard to duplicate and prepare for.”

The Lady Indians continued to control the game defense for the first half of the third, holding Pinkston without a made field goal for the first 3:38 after the break. But the Lady Vikings started to knock down open shots and slowly climbed their way out of a deficit that reached as many as nine points.

Clinging to a three-point lead with less than five minutes to go in the fourth, the Lady Indians got a steal from Malone and had a chance to make it a two-possession game. Malone was fouled intentionally on the fast break, though, and the Lady Indians failed to capitalize from the free-throw line.

That’s when momentum began to shift in Pinkston’s favor as Kenshawnna Reed took over the game. She scored 13 points in the final quarter, including seven of the team’s last nine points, to lead the Lady Vikings to the win.

Desi Gonzales finished with a game-high 20 points for Sanger and had a career night in her final game, and Malone added 16 points. Sanger finished the season 12-21 and will have a strong core returning next season in Hilliard’s second season at the helm.

“This is my first year to have coached a group from freshman to senior year, first as an assistant and then as the head coach,” Hilliard said. “I’m so proud of them and the legacy they built. Last year was important going to the regional tournament, but to endure what we’ve gone through this year — the loss of players for one reason or another — and still have them here just speaks so much about their character.

“That may not mean much to them now. They wanted to win. But it’s going to mean something later. They’ll remember that — I know they will.”

Dallas Pinkston 51, Sanger 44

Sanger 8 15 10 11 — 44 Dallas Pinkston 17 3 10 21 — 51

Sanger (12-21) — Desi Gonzales 20, Chloe Malone 16, Hayla Flowers 4, Moore 2, Sarah Burk 2.

Dallas Pinkston — Thomas 11, London 3, Reed 19, Cooper 3, Flores 12, Smith 3.

BRADY KEANE can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @BradyKeane.

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