If there was any chance that Chris Sumrall and the Tascosa Lady Rebels would be intimidated by their celebrated crosstown rivals, it was put completely to rest Tuesday night at Amarillo High.
In Sumrall’s first game at Tascosa coaching against the crosstown rival Lady Sandies, he took the Lady Rebels into the hostile territory of the Amarillo High Gym to face the No. 3 team in Class 5A in the first round of District 3-5A play. By the end of the evening, it was up for debate who the best team in town was.
That’s because Tascosa wouldn’t back down against AHS and at the end of the night, stood taller than the Lady Sandies. The Lady Rebels survived seeing a 10-point lead disappear and recovered in the final half-minute for a 53-50 victory which sent a message to the rest of the district that there’s more than one AISD team that means business in 3-5A.
“I’m not into making statements and all that,” said Sumrall, who came from a successful stint at Class 2A Wellington to take over for Betsy Baughman last summer. “I told the kids before the game that district is going to be different. If you win it you don’t get two wins and if you lose it you don’t get two Ls, so let’s keep it in perspective.”
Statement or not, what the win does is put Tascosa (22-4, 3-1 in district) ahead of Amarillo High (25-4, 2-1) in district play and only adds intrigue to the second half district meeting between the two teams Feb. 3 at Tascosa. If Tuesday’s meeting is any indication, it could be a sequel along the lines of Godfather II.
Most of the game was as close and emotional as would be expected from crosstown rivals. Tascosa’s 26-21 halftime lead was the biggest margin anybody had in the first half.
Juniors Aniyah Brackens and Avery Carter carried the load as expected for Tascosa early, scoring nine points apiece. Carter’s inside presence was felt against Amarillo High at both ends of the floor all evening.
Despite the closeness of the score, Amarillo High rarely led in the first half, the last time at 21-20 after Payton Daniels came off the bench and hit a short jumper. That would be Amarillo High’s last lead of the game, as the Lady Rebels scored the last six points of the half to take the lead into the locker room.
Tascosa showed the first half was no fluke and built the lead to 40-30 midway through the quarter. Most striking was an offensive sequence where the Lady Rebels got what seemed like a half-dozen cracks at offensive rebounds before Carter finally put one in.
“We’ve said all along to shoot it and go get it,” Sumrall said. “That’s where we’re good. We’re as good as just about anybody around in going and getting boards and we did a great job of that tonight.”
But the Lady Sandies didn’t get a No. 3 state ranking and make three state tournaments in the last five years by lying down because of a deficit. They rallied to cut the lead to five by the end of the third quarter and kept it close enough until the final minute, when Taytum Bell scored on a short jumper and Jada Graves hit a pair of free throws with under a minute left to tie it at 50-50.
However, with 41 seconds left after rebounding an Amarillo High miss, Brackens, who led the Lady Rebels with 17 points, hit the second of two free throws to make it 51-50. After stealing the ball on the ensuing AHS possession, Daizija Oages drove in for a layup to make it 53-50 with 21 seconds left.
The Lady Sandies had two possessions to try to tie the game with a 3-pointer, but they never managed to get off a shot.
“This bunch here has done a pretty good job of being resilient,” Sumrall said. “We’ve played with leads but that’s something we’ve got to improve on, but in the end we’ve been pretty good down the stretch and made the plays we needed to make to get wins.”
Tascosa had four players in double figures, as Oages and Carter had 12 and Devaeh Johnson scored 10. Graves and McKenzie Smith led Amarillo High with 17 apiece.
Tascosa 14 26 42 53
Amarillo High 11 21 37 50
T– Aniyah Brackens 17, Daizjia Oages 12, Avery Carter 12, Devaeh Johnson 10. AHS– Jada Graves 17, McKenzie Smith 17. Records: Tascosa 22-4, 3-1; Amarillo High 25-4, 2-1.