SHOCKING SURGE

in Girls Basketball/Winter Sports

Closing out the first round of District 17-3A play with a stunning upset of previously undefeated West, Clifton girls basketball re-enters the postseason conversation

CLIFTON — A win streak of any kind can work wonders for a team’s confidence. As it turns out, winning their second straight did a lot more than that for the Clifton Lady Cubs basketball team.

Turning their season around in dramatic fashion, the Lady Cubs shocked the District 17-3A leading and undefeated West Lady Trojans, 38-29, in a rescheduled game last Saturday at the Clifton High School Gymnasium to wrap up the first round of district competition. With the stunning victory, Clifton (3-4 in district, 13-10 overall) moved into position to challenge for a playoff berth as the Lady Cubs open the second round by hosting the co-league-leading Lorena Lady Leopards (6-1, 17-9) at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“It was a great win for our team,” Clifton girls basketball head coach Whitney Holdbrook said. “Our defense played a huge role in the win over West. Our girls had a great week of practice and learning about each of our opponents we played. Saturday, we came in with big energy and held ourselves to high expectations and stayed disciplined every quarter of the game.”

With a relentless display on defense, the Lady Cubs built a remarkable 22-4 lead before intermission, denying West (6-1, 19-7) almost any opportunity to score. The Lady Trojans made a run at rallying in the second half, but it proved to be too little, too late. Hitting on only eight of 53 shots from the field (15.1 percent), West outscored Clifton, 10-7, in the third before a 15-point final period came up short.

In the meantime, sophomore Meagan Henderson led the Lady Cubs with 12 points, 12 rebounds and six steals, followed by sophomore Laylah Gaona followed with eight points and three steals while junior Carley Caniford added seven points, three rebounds and two assists.

After losing four of their first five district games, the Lady Cubs flipped the narrative with a dominating 78-8 road victory over Waco Harmony Academy of Innovation (0-7, 0-11) Jan. 11.

With Laylah Gaona leading the way with 20 points and four steals, Clifton jumped out to a 26-5 first quarter lead and built a 42-point advantage by halftime. Henderson scored 13 points while contributing seven assists, eight rebounds and six steals, while sophomore Kate Humphreys added 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists and Carly Caniford tossed in nine points.

Despite opening district with back-to-back losses at Lorena, 60-31, and against Whitney (4-3, 7-13), 66-33, at home, the Lady Cubs posted a 34-27 non-district home win over the Axtell Lady Longhorns Dec. 20 before taking 10 days off during the holiday break.

Playing on New Year’s Eve, Clifton suffered its third straight district loss, falling to the McGregor Lady  Bulldogs, 51-32, on the road. The Lady Cubs jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the first period, but McGregor (3-3, 6-9) came storming back with a 16-point second quarter and kept pouring in the points for the win. Henderson led Clifton with eight points, followed by junior April Rowlins and Laylah Gaona with seven each in the loss.

The Lady Cubs finally snapped the three-game skid with a convincing 56-15 road victory over the Riesel Lady Indian (1-6, 2-17) Jan. 4 as Laylah Gaona scored a game-high 19 points and six rebounds. Jumping out to a commanding 17-6 first period lead, Clifton only allowed six second half points while coasting to victory.

Putting up a double-double, Henderson scored 14 points and pulled down 11 rebounds while collecting six steals and dishing out three assists while senior Kasandra Gaona grabbed five steals, sophomore Brianna Gonzalez pulled down five rebounds and Carley Caniford dished out three assists.

Before posting last week’s back-to-back district wins, the Lady Cubs struggled mightily shooting from the field as the Troy Lady Trojans (4-2, 13-9) ran away with a 55-22 victory at CHS gymnasium Jan. 7. Although Laylah Gaona led Clifton with 10 points while Henderson pulled down seven rebounds, the Lady Cubs only sank seven of 52 shots from the field (13.5 percent).

“We have a young team, but I believe we grew a lot throughout last year and this season,” Holdbrook said. “We have learned a lot as a team how to play together and fill roles. I am proud of the defensive progress this group has made.”

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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