By CRAIG HALL
SPIRO—Like mother, like daughter.
The last time Howe’s girls played Talihina in the finals of the LeFlore County Tournament, back in 1989, Christie Hall Hillebrand was the MVP for the Lady Lions in a 74-55 win over the Lady Tigers.
Her daughter, Brianna, followed in those footsteps, collecting the MVP award for the 2012 LCT after blocking six shots and putting Howe ahead for good late with a free throw in the Lady Lions’ 31-27 win over Talihina in the girls’ championship game Saturday night.
And because of the efforts of Hillebrand and her veteran teammates, Howe captured the trophy after falling in the last two finals.
After Talihina tied the game at 27, Hillebrand hit two of four free throws to give Howe a 29-27 lead then blocked a potential tying shot in the final seconds. Megan Brown was fouled after the blocked shot and hit two clinching free throws for the final four-point margin.
In the lowest-scoring girls’ final since 1977, defenses for both teams ruled. And Hillebrand and fellow post Abigail McGarrah ruled the paint for the Lady Lions, keeping Talihina from scoring easy shots all night.
Howe’s guards Brooke Vandever and Tori Kellogg also were able to withstand Talihina’s pressure defense, committing few turnovers despite playing against the suffocating press.
The top-seeded Lady Lions seemed to be in control after scoring the first four points of the second half to take a 19-11. Talihina answered with an 8-2 run which featured two baskets each by Jazmin Humphreys and Tara Hawkins.
Keisha Brown later tied the score at 23 before Hillebrand scored at the buzzer to put the Lady Lions up by two heading into the final quarter.
Megan Brown hit a layup to put Howe ahead by a pair. Hawkins scored to pull Talihina within two before neither team could score for the next four minutes.
Chelsea Baggs got loose and tied the game with 3:09 left on a layup. Hillebrand gave Talihina a one-point lead and Tori Kellogg also had a big block down the stretch.
Hillebrand hit her second free throw for a two-point lead and came up big with her biggest block of the game. Brown was fouled and hit both free throws and the Lady Lions were on top of girls basketball in LeFlore County for the 10th time, the fifth win for Chris Brown as coach.
Howe’s four starting seniors had a balanced scoring night in the win. Hillebrand, Brown and Abigail McGarrah each had eight points and Tori Kellogg added seven.
Hawkins finished with eight points to lead Talihina, which entered the tournament as the third seed and advanced to the semifinals with a win over Spiro Thursday.