Big lead vanishes, playoff hopes fade for Lady Stangs as Big Spring rallies for win

For the vast majority of the first half of Saturday’s game against Big Spring, the Sweetwater girls basket-ball team appeared to be firmly in control.The Lady Mustangs — desperate for a win in order to maintain realistic hopes of a playoff berth — seized the early momentum against the only team they have beaten in district play. But Big Spring staged a second-half comeback to win, 61-56, at Mustang Gym.Sweetwater (1-5, 16-15) — which won rather easily, 59-35, at Big Spring in the teams’ earlier meeting — surged to a 7-0 lead before the Lady Steers scored. And after Big Spring closed the gap to 10-7 at the 2:44 mark of the first quarter, Sweetwater went on a sizzling 15-0 run to extend its lead to 18, 25-7, with 6:25 left until halftime.Even after Big Spring answered with an 8-0 run to cut it to 25-15 a couple of minutes later, the Lady Mustangs kept a double-digit lead until the final minute of the half and led 31-24 at intermission. Alicia Finn’s two free throws extended the lead to 33-24 early in the third quarter. But the 5-11 junior post — who has been her team’s top scorer in district play and led Sweetwater again Saturday with 15 points — went to the bench after her fourth foul a short time later and Big Spring (2-4 district, 17-8) took advantage to go ahead for the first time in the contest.Big Spring’s Mackenzie Stone hit a trey with 1:53 left in the period to give the Lady Steers their first lead, 36-35, and followed with another 3-pointer to make it 39-35. But Sweetwater regained the lead, 43-41, with back-to-back three-point plays by Kendra Crosson and Finn and Sweetwater twice held four-point leads in the fourth quarter, the last time 48-44 with 4:50 left.Crosson hit two free throws to give Sweetwater a 54-53 lead with 2:08 to play. But Big Spring’s Bridgett Tuitt then took over, scoring all her team’s points in a game-ending 8-2 run. Tuitt’s last six points came at the line, including two clinching free throws with 22.2 seconds left after Taylor McKoy had cut the lead to 59-56. The loss dropped Sweet-water behind both Snyder and Big Spring in the fight for the No. 3 playoff berth with two games left. Sweet-water hosts Wylie (7-0) at 6 p.m. today and is at Brownwood (4-2) for its season finale Tuesday, and must win both games to have any hopes of making it into the postseason.“We came out on fire,” said Sweetwater coach Jerry McSherry of his team’s fast start against Big Spring. “But we folded under pressure. They put on a mock press that we face all the time and we couldn’t handle it. Kids that don’t normally turn the ball over turned the ball over; we made some poor decisions.”Sweetwater also received 12 points from McKoy, 10 from Kendra Crosson and nine by Kinsey Browning. Aubra Hendrix had five points, Suede Shirley three and Kelsi Crosson two. Tuitt led Big Spring with 21 points, while Cerbi Ritchey had 17 amd Stone 15.