NEW CANEY — The A&M Consolidated girls basketball team had a score to settle with New Caney.
The Lady Tigers did just that by avenging last year’s playoff loss to the Lady Eagles with a 53-39 victory Friday night in the Class 5A bi-district playoffs. Consol (12-7) advances to the area round for the first time since 2016 and will play Pflugerville Weiss at a time and site to be determined.
“Coming into the game, we wanted to make sure we got our bi-district [win] to move on,” Consol coach Wendy Hines said. “We felt like we sold ourselves a little short last year. ... I’m very proud of my girls. I told them I believed in them. I told them they could do this, and they did not stop.”
Junior guard Claire Sisco paved the way for the Lady Tigers on both ends of the floor. A noted defensive specialist, Sisco held New Caney’s Tori Garza, an Oklahoma State signee, to just six points. On the other end, Sisco led Consol with 17 points after hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers.
“Sisco worked her tail off on defense, and then she turned around ... and I know her shots weren’t falling, but she’s mentally tough and she stayed with it,” Hines said. “Getting to see her hitting like that and as well as shutting down Tori on the other end, that’s a big job. She plays bigger than she is.”
Senior forward Cierra Gilbert also made a huge impact for the Lady Tigers in the second half. Gilbert sat over 10 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, but was a force in the second half and finished with 11 points, including eight in the final 16 minutes.
“I was looking at the clock like it was broken. It’s not working,.I want to get her back in, but I just knew I couldn’t and her get her third [foul],” Hines said of Gilbert’s first-half foul troubles. “Between her and Brooke [Roberson], they really handled the boards. They handled down low, and I told CeCe before the fourth quarter, ‘You’re bringing it.’”
New Caney took a 23-19 lead with 5:53 left in the third quarter, but Consol flipped a switch thanks to the trio of Sisco, Gilbert and junior guard Sara Hathorn, who finished with 13 points and scored the final eight of the night for Consol to seal the victory.
The Lady Tigers went on a 12-2 run to open a 31-25 lead with 2:37 left in the third quarter. New Caney pulled within four points twice in the fourth quarter, but Consol outscored the Lady Eagles 17-7 in the final five minutes.
“Me and Brook started doing our business,” Gilbert said. “We finished in the paint, and then their people started collapsing on us, so we had Sisco and Sara and Kira [Merrell] open for the 3, and I feel like those were the shots that put us in the lead and gave us the game.”
Consol led almost the entire first half, but Garza pulled up for a fastbreak jumper with eight seconds left before halftime to give New Caney an 18-17 lead at intermission.
Consol raced to an 11-3 lead with 1:26 left in the first quarter. The Lady Tigers controlled the game early by playing aggressive defense, forcing eight turnovers in the first quarter. But Consol couldn’t maintain full control after Gilbert picked up her second foul with 2:09 left in the first period. As a result, Garza spearheaded a 7-0 New Caney run in the second quarter after making three straight layups.
“Some of the girls were nervous,” Gilbert said. “It was their first playoff [game], and I was like, ‘Hey, if you get on the court, you don’t need to worry about being nervous, don’t worry about the missed shots, don’t worry about the missed layups. Nobody cares about your errors. Just know if you mess up, come back on defense harder and help your teammates, because once you check out, you’re checking out on the rest of us.”
Consol now sets its sights on an unfamiliar foe in Pflugerville Weiss.
“It means a lot to handle your business and then get to move on,” Hines said. “I tell them just take it one game at a time, especially playing teams you don’t know anything about. ... It’s going to be exciting to play someone different out of that district.”
A&M Consolidated 53, New Caney 39
CONSOL (12-7) — Sisco, 17, Hathorn 13, Gilbert 11, Roberson 8, Gooden 2, Merrell 2, Mosier 2, Terah 1.
NEW CANEY (17-9) — Perales 15, Dittman 12, Garza 6, Brown 4, Leftridge 2.
A&M Consolidated 11 6 14 22 — 53
New Caney 5 13 10 11 — 39