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Key injuries to starters prove devastating as the Clifton Lady Cubs drop third straight District 17-3A game, close out first round on Senior Night against Waco Harmony Science Academy

Despite opening the 2022-23 Texas high school girls basketball season with an experienced, playoff-tested team, the Clifton Lady Cub have been hit hard by injuries just as competition in District 17-3A began to heat up. And certainly, the adversity will test the resilience of the Lady Cubs as they fight to return to the Class 3A postseason.

After losing their second starting player to a season-ending injury since District 17-3A competition began, the Lady Cubs have struggled to find their offensive chemistry. Coming out of the Christmas break, Clifton (1-4 in district, 11-12 overall) fell in a hard-fought 33-28 loss to Whitney at home last Tuesday before dropping a 40-21 decision on the road to West last Friday.

Prior to the holiday break, Clifton lost junior Meagan Henderson to a knee injury only to see sophomore Kyndall Hunt go down with a knee injury as well coming out of the break.

“It’s especially tough because now the girls have in their mind like, ‘oh my gosh, now we’ve had two people get hurt’” Clifton girls basketball head coach Whitney Holdbrook said. “It definitely affects our style of play a little bit.”

The Lady Cubs will try to regroup with an open date in the district schedule Tuesday before closing out the first round of district play by hosting Waco Harmony Science Academy (0-5, 0-10) on Senior Night at 6 p.m. Friday in the Clifton High School Gymnasium. Clifton will open the second round of district hosting Keene (3-2, 20-6) at 6 p.m. next Tuesday.

“I think with this week of practice, it’s a little different than our normal schedule,” Holdbrook said. “So we need to slow down and really fine tune some things in practice. I hoping it shows on Friday night, that the girls are just a little bit more comfortable working for each other. We are working on some offensive changes to help them have a more fluid offense attack.”

Riding a three-game losing streak in district, the Lady Cubs have struggled offensively during the last two games, scoring only a total of 49 points. After hitting 27.8 percent of their shots from the field against Whitney (2-3, 10-13), the Lady Cubs managed to sink only 17.1 percent against West (3-2, 7-10). Against the Lady Wildcats, junior Brianna Gonzalez led Clifton with 10 points, while junior Laylah Gaona led the Lady Cubs with seven points against West.

“Honestly, it’s been tough on the offensive side of the ball,” Holdbrook said. “Defensively, it wasn’t a bad night. When you give up only 40 points, that’s not terrible defense. Offensively, we got open shots, we just couldn’t get anything to fall. It just came down to that we couldn’t make shots.”

Coming off a convincing 34-28 victory over the Grandview Lady Zebras (4-1, 20-5) Dec. 16, the Lady Cubs have dropped three straight district games, beginning with a 50-37 loss at Maypearl (5-1, 17-10) Dec. 20. After battling to a 12-12 first period tie, the Lady Panthers built a six-point advantage before intermission and continued to build on it during the second half to secure the victory.

Although the Lady Cubs outshot Maypearl by sinking 33.3 percent of their shots, Clifton turned the ball over 31 times compared to 15 by the Lady Panthers. As the only Lady Cub in double figures, Gonzales tossed in 17 points, grabbed eight rebounds and offered two assists, while Gaona added seven points and senior Carley Caniford pulled down eight rebounds.

Coming off a six-day break for the Christmas holidays, the Lady Cubs traveled to College Station to take part in the Aggieland Invitation Dec. 27-29, losing three of four games against quality opponents.

“It was good competition, we played some bigger schools,” Holdbrook said. “Really, in the long run, I think it helps us because you can’t make practices as competitive as games. So, coming out of that Christmas break, being able to get in four games against some really good opponents made us work on things we needed to work on. And it helps us to rebuild after some injuries with people needing to get comfortable with teammates playing in different spots.”


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