Bridge City Lady Cardinals Rock
It happens, but rarely. When it does it is like the strike of lightning. On Friday night, Lady Cardinal basketball player, Bailee Bacon made a shot that stunned their opponent and sent fans into pandemonium.
After four quarters of basketball and desperately trailing by three points as the buzzer sounded the end of the game, Bacon hit the net from just past mid court to score. The shot would throw the critical district contest against Hardin-Jefferson into overtime.
During the brief intermission proceeding the tie breaker, second year Lady Cardinal Head Coach Jennifer Willis gathered her team in earnest, “Stay focused, this is not over! Let’s not let Bailee’s shot go to waste. Let’s finish this!”
It would take two gruelling overtime periods before the Lady Cardinals would inevitably prevail over the Hardin-Jefferson Lady Hawks 56-52 in Sour Lake. It was an amazing come from behind victory that erupted in celebration.
“These girls have the will to win. We will fight till the end and never give up,” Willis said. ““They want to be successful, not for themselves, but for each other.”
The Lady Cardinals are having an unprecedented season. Currently, the state ranked Bridge City girls are 26-4 overall, 6-1 in Dist. 21-3A, with four games left in district action before going into the playoffs. On Tuesday night the Lady Cardinals finished off the West Orange-Stark Lady Mustangs in a hard fought 60-54 victory.
The heroic game tying effort of Bacon, a sophomore guard for the Lady Cardinals, is mirrored by her teammates who have emerged victorious through a maze of tournament action and regular season play. This season All-Tournament honors have gone to junior post guard, Kasey Frederick, senior post, Kelsey Fults and junior guard, Alexus Henry. Senior point guard, Caylin Choate was named Most Valuable Player in the Class 4A dominated Nederland Lady Bulldog Basketball Tournament.
“I admire my girls for their perseverance and selfless play. I am blessed with girls that are extremely coachable with an undeniable work ethic,’” Willis said.
Punctuating the team effort offensively and defensively for the Lady Cardinals, Choate averages four steals, seven assists and five points per game. Bacon averages eight points per game with three steals and three assists. Henry averages 14 points and three steals per game. Frederick averages seven points, six rebounds and two steals per game. Fults chalks up 15 points, eight rebounds and two steals on average per game.
Off the bench junior guard, Shaylas Bratton averages five points and two steals and junior guard, Sara Acosta averages two steals per game. Rounding out the team is senior post players, Harleigh Myers and Trinity King.
Defensively the Lady Cardinals average 19 steals per game robbing their opponents of scoring opportunities.
“We have worked hard to achieve our goals and each day make it a point to focus on the team as a whole,” Willis said, “Most of all the dedication we all have for each other, to try to be the best we can be for this community.”
Hitting three-pointers is not uncommon for Bacon who scored seven 3-pointers against Lumberton. Fults had five 3-pointers against Evadale. Other season highlights include 12 steals by Choate against Woodville. Bratton posted 18 points against Kountze. As for Frederick and Henry, “They have a good game every game,” Willis said.
“I am extremely lucky to coach at such an amazing district. This program is the product of team work. I have great coaches around me,” Willis said, “A great assistant in Tony Bradley and hard working junior high coaches. From drawing up plays in Richard Briggs office, talking to Tony Knight, picking Glenn Procella’s brain and talking defense with the superintendent Mike King … we all care about this team.”
“I use the resources around me and always continue to make an effort to be better for my kids. I love these girls and am allowed by the district and parents to coach them fiercely. I love them for who they are and not what they can do.”
Does Willis have a central philosophy behind the success of The Lady Cardinals this season?
“If I show them my dedication and be significant for them they will work so hard for each other. The season is far from over. We still have goals. We will work hard to accomplish them. We will do it together.”
The Lady Cardinals will take on the Lady Bobcats in Orangefield on Friday at 6:30 p.m.. They will host Silsbee on Tuesday, Jan. 28; on Jan. 30 the Lady Cards go on the road to face the Hamshire-Fannett Lady Longhorns, the only team in Dist. 21-3A yet to defeat Big Red, 56-45. The Lady Cardinals offer the Hardin-Jefferson Lady Hawks a rematch to finish district play in Bridge City on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
The Lady Cardinals explode in celebration the instant Bailee Bacon, 12, hit the 3-pointer saving the game for Bridge City. RECORD PHOTOS: Mark Dunn