COLLINSVILLE — Every sound was amplified in the compact gymnasium at Collinsville High School. The whistles rang louder, the cheers from the bench and fans saturated the 94 feet and after the final buzzer declared the game over, the collective roar from Gunter’s fan base signaled the end of Pilot Point’s comeback effort.
But not the end of the season.
The Lady Cats lost to the Lady Tigers 45-40 Friday night in a game to determine the No. 3 seed in District 9-3A heading into the playoffs. With the loss, Pilot Point (10-18, 8-4) falls to the No. 4 seed and will take on Howe at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Celina.
“We battled the whole night,” Pilot Point coach David Lay said. “We came out shooting cold, battled foul trouble, but we battled, and it was great to experience a playoff culture before our first playoff game, so I’m excited about that. Now we just have to reset and refocus.”
Albeit disappointed, Lay saw a few aspects of the loss his team can build off heading into that first round game.
One of those was the play of senior Hope McNeese who totaled 16 points, netting four 3-pointers to help keep her team afloat. More players got involved in the second half as the Lady Cats cut a double-digit halftime deficit to merely four heading to the final frame.
“We got quality shots the whole game we just came out and couldn’t buy a bucket and those nights will happen,” Lay said. “We depend on our defense and runouts which Gunter limited. Then we had seniors step up in the second half and kept us alive. We just never could get over the hump.”
Pilot Point had five different players score in the second half as Lindsey True finished the game with nine points while Harley Jones ended with six of her own, all in the second half.
The defeat will be taken in stride for Lay’s team as they head into their first postseason after a 14-year drought. The seeding game served as a warm-up of sorts as the Lady Cats hope to go into Tuesday’s game with an edge after playing the extra game.
“[This game] was huge and it can’t do anything but help,” Lay said. “We have a team full of girls that haven’t experienced [the playoffs], so just getting one dry run out of the way helps. Knowing the feeling, the atmosphere, the competitiveness of it all is great and hopefully on Tuesday we’ll shoot lights out.”