KATY—Seven Lakes’ first girls basketball playoff win in four years did not come easily, but the Spartans got it done for a 58-47 Class 6A Region III bi-district win over Elkins on Tuesday night at the Merrell Center.
No. 16 state-ranked Seven Lakes improved to 31-6 and advanced to the area round for the first time since the 2017-18 season. The Spartans led 31-14 at halftime before the Knights (11-17) stormed back to close within seven behind an irrepressible pressure defense late in the fourth quarter.
But Spartans star sophomore Justice Carlton, ranked No. 1 in the Class of 2024, made a big steal and bucket late, and senior guard Aliyah Atiqi knocked in two big free throws as Seven Lakes held on to set up a meeting with Cy-Fair in the area round later this week.
Three pointers from tonight’s win for Seven Lakes.
>> SUMMER TIME IN THE WINTER
Senior Summer Halphen was big defensively for Seven Lakes, particularly on the glass. Halphen had 10 rebounds by halftime and finished with 13 for the game. She added six points and was also crucial as a facilitator offensively.
“I told them all that if we didn’t rebound, we were going to be in trouble the whole night,” coach Angela Spurlock said. “There’s always a player on this team that will listen intently to what I say, so thank goodness for that. She was huge on the boards. Challenging her to let her know she was doing a great job to get the rebound, but she needed to be a great ballhandler and get the ball up the floor. Once she started doing that, it made it look a lot better.”
Halphen’s emergence as another ballhandler was key down the stretch against Elkins’ pressure. Seven Lakes survived despite 27 turnovers.
“We’re all prepared for this,” Halphen said. “We’ve been working really hard. All of our seniors wanted this so bad. It means everything.”
.@THEspartanway7 senior @summerhalphen had a gritty, impressive defensive effort in the Spartans\u2019 first playoff win since 2018 tonight. Halphen had six points and 13 rebounds. #txhshoops @SLHSABC @KatyISDAthletic @SpartanCrazies_pic.twitter.com/6W7vjgZcav— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II) 1644977153
>> CARLTON PERSEVERES THROUGH ILLNESS
Carlton was sick for the entire week leading up to Tuesday’s game.
“I just wanted to help my teammates defensively, working as hard as I can on the press, getting rebounds,” Carlton said. “I knew my shot wasn’t going to fall tonight, having missed a couple shootarounds and practices. Definitely tired, too.”
Carlton played on admirably, however, compiling a game-high 23 points and 16 rebounds to go with four blocks and four assists. Even her worst nights are seemingly better than most people’s best.
With Elkins cutting a 17-point halftime deficit to eight entering the fourth quarter, Carlton powered through in the final period with 11 points and five rebounds.
“I know these seniors have been here for a while, waiting for this moment for a long time,” Carlton said. “Especially since last year, blowing that lead against Ridge Point. Huge disappointment. But coming out tonight, I know everyone’s super excited.”
.@JayMayya with six points early this 4Q. She might not be THAT tired. #txhshoops @THEspartanway7 @SLHSABCpic.twitter.com/wEhoI8CJaM— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II) 1644973656
>> GUTSY, GRITTY SPARTANS
Spurlock was impressed with her team’s resilience when the game got tight late.
“I’m proud the entire team tonight pushed back on those rallies,” Spurlock said. “In (the playoffs), when somebody comes at you, you have to be able to respond. I was extremely proud, probably more than anything else tonight. We stayed calm enough to regain the lead.”
It was a drastic turnaround and a telling moment after last year’s bi-district playoff game against Ridge Point, when the Panthers went on an 8-0 run in the final 90 seconds to steal the win.
That would not be the case this time around.
“We needed to get the first bi-district win under our belt,” Spurlock said. “I know this team is really excited. Now we just regroup and get ready to go on.”