Panhandle’s Mackie Land (14) goes strong to the basket during a Region I-2A final against Wellington on Tuesday night at the McNeely Field House in Pampa. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]
Pampa— It was a battle expected by an energetic crowd at the McNeely Field House, better known as the “The Pit” in Pampa on Tuesday night.
Meeting for a third time this season, District 2-2A rivals Panhandle and Wellington didn’t disappoint in the Region I-2A finals. Just like the first two meetings it was the Ettes making more plays in the end to hold on for a 43-36 victory, punching a ticket to the Class 2A state semifinals.
“I wanted this for our team,” Panhandle head coach Rob Schmucker said. “Nobody sees but us how hard they work day in and day out in practice. This is a hard working, character team. They come prepared everyday.”
Panhandle (28-3 overall), which last won a state championship in 2017, was playing in a sixth straight regional final. This is also the Ettes second time back to the semi’s in the last three years.
“This one is for Panhandle,” Panhandle senior guard Mason Jones said. “This community has given so much for me, I want to give back to them.”
These two teams knew each other inside and out, and it showed Tuesday. The play was physical, and buckets were hard to come by. Panhandle held a 20-12 halftime lead, however, the Lady Rockets never went away. Wellington cut the deficit to three in the third. By the fourth quarter, Wellington once again trailed only 31-28. Panhandle went on an 8-0 run in the early stages of the fourth quarter highlighted by four quick transition buckets by Jones. The Lady Rockets chipped away on a Kyla Kane jumper, and a Hadlee Gomez bucket in the paint to trail only 39-36 with two minutes left. The score remained the same with under a minute to go. Wellington had a chance at the tie but a Kane 3-point look from the right wing bounced out and Panhandle secured the rebound.
“Give credit to Wellington,” Schmucker said. “They are young but Coach (Chris) Sumrall had that team improving every week. We made runs but they came back. I want to give us some credit. We showed fight.”
Wellington coach Chris Sumrall echoed Schmucker’s comments.
“We were hoping to give ourselves a chance at the end,” Sumrall said. “We turned it over too much and didnt do a good job of rebounding. Those things get you beat in a big game like this.”
Panhandle sank free-throws in the final 30 seconds to ice the win. Jones finished with a team-high 17 points, while teammate Mackie Land had seven of her 13 in the third quarter before fouling out. Land also did the dirty work in the paint on the boards and on the defensive end. Kane led the Lady Rockets with 17.
Panhandle will now face Region II champion, Lipan, in a state semifinal at time and place to be determined.
Wellington ends a terrific year at 23-6.
Wellington 6 12 23 36
Panhandle 9 20 31 43
W— Kyla Kane 17. P— Mason Jones 17, Mackie Land 13. Records: Wellington 23-6; Panhandle 28-3.