By A.J. Crispfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Cleburne Lady Jackets saw their playoff run and season come to an end with a 55-52 loss to No. 4 Canyon on Friday in a Class 4A regional semifinal game at The Coliseum.
The game was a tight contest throughout, and Canyon built the biggest lead of the game of nine points at 47-38 early in the fourth quarter. But the Lady Jackets went on a 6-0 run to climb back in the game before falling just short as Canyon went 4-of-4 at the free-throw line in the final 23 seconds to preserve the victory.
“I'm very proud of the girls,” Cleburne Coach Jamie Calahan said. “Those girls are awesome — absolutely awesome. I'm very proud of them. It was a great group. I had such a great journey with them this year. I'm just very proud of them.
“A few bounces [was the difference] — a few bounces, a few more things here and there. Our girls fought hard. As a coach, if you lose a game by 3, I take the blame on that. Three points is my fault and I've got to find a way to make that up.”
Cleburne's Jazlin Jones hit a pair of free throws with 1:22 remaining to pull the Lady Jackets to within one point at 51-50.
Canyon then ran nearly a minute off the clock before the Lady Jackets fouled Madison Parker with 23 seconds left. Parker sank both free throws to put the Lady Eagles on top, 53-50.
On Cleburne's ensuing possession, Courtney Jeffcoat's 3-point attempt was deflected, and a fight for the loose ball ensued. The officials called a jump ball with 10 seconds remaining with the possession arrow in Canyon's favor.
Calahan said he thought Jasline Chandler had possession of the ball and he called for a timeout, but the officials called for the tie-up, resulting in a Lady Eagle possession.
Parker was fouled with 6 seconds remaining, and she hit both free throws to put the Lady Eagles on top 55-50. Cleburne added a late offensive rebound put-back on a missed 3, but the buzzer sounded less than a second later.
Earlier in the game, Cleburne's Bria McCullough tied it at 28 early in the third quarter, but Canyon scored the next 5 points to take a 33-28 lead — a lead the Lady Eagles never relinquished.
Canyon's Taylor Jones and Brittany Morgan hit back-to-back 3's in the final seconds of the third quarter to build a 41-35 lead heading into the final frame.
The officials had a quick whistle for the majority of the contest. McCullough, Jeffcoat, Chandler and Jones were all in foul trouble in the second half. McCullough picked up her fourth foul midway through the final quarter.
Canyon's two leading scorers, Parker and Caitlin Cunyus, were also in foul trouble in the second half. Cunyus fouled out with just over a minute remaining.
The teams were whistled for a combined 44 personal fouls (23 on Cleburne, 21 on Canyon), and each team went into the bonus in the opening quarter of each half.
“They were tight and then loose and then tight and then loose,” Calahan said of the way the game was officiated. “It was a little bit inconsistent but I guess that's just what you get. The quick whistle hurt us [because of the way we play defense].”
McCullough led Cleburne with 19 points while Jones added 14 points, six rebounds and four steals. Jeffcoat scored 13 points to go along with three steals.
Parker scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Canyon. Morgan added nine points and Cunyus scored seven points and dished out six assists.
Cleburne, the District 8-4A champion, ends its season with a 26-8 record. Canyon advances to play the winner of Fort Worth Trimble Tech and El Paso Burges in the Region I Class 4A regional final on Saturday.