One doesn’t often see three freshmen playing and starting for a varsity basketball team at the high school level.
But that’s exactly the situation at Navarro High School, where head coach Darrell Harborth has three girls, one of whom is his daughter, playing on the varsity for the Lady Panthers.
Tuesday night at Navarro, those three led the way to a dominating second half and a win over neighborhood rival Seguin, 46-29.
Tatum Harborth, Laylin Sturm and Ryanne Hepp accounted for 34 of the Lady Panthers 46 points, as Navarro improved to 6-4 on the season and won their fourth game in a row.
“They had some successful junior high years and I knew they were going to be pretty solid,” Harborth said. “They’re playing extremely well for us and they know what they’re doing.”
Tatum had 11 of her game-high 18 in the second half, as the Lady Panthers turned a one-point halftime deficit (20-19) into a 14-point lead by the end of the third quarter, when they outscored Seguin 16-1 to break the game open.
“We got some steals out of the press and our half court defense got a little bit better,” Harborth said. “We sometimes struggle to rebound, but we got some rebounds and were able to get some outlets that led to easy buckets.
“Our third quarter was extremely good and I was excited to see that.”
Seguin head coach Angela Brittain was on the other side of the third, as the Lady Mats went cold from the field and turned it over to the press.
“We haven’t been a third quarter team all season,” Brittain said. “We knew going out there that we needed to step it up, but we didn’t do the things that we needed to do, didn’t take the shots we needed — we just kind of fell apart in the third quarter.
“They were putting pressure on us and we weren’t able to handle it.”
Sturm and Hepp each added eight points in the win.
Harborth noted a couple of shots from the outside opened up the zone that Seguin was playing on the defensive end of the floor.
“We were able to hit some shots against the zone,” he said. “When we hit shots like that it just opens everything up for everybody else.”
Harborth is not surprised at the production from the freshmen, as they have all played together for a number of years now.
“They played some other ball along the way and have played together a long time now, so they know where each other is going to be,” he said. “They play well together. It’s two guards and a post, the other kids are doing their part and they are all coming together as a team.”
An injury to starter Haleigh Ortiz two weeks ago has insured the freshmen more playing time, but the coach already had an idea that they would be playing a lot this season.
‘Unfortunately, Haleigh breaking her ankle opened up a spot at the top — and they’ve seized their opportunity,” Harborth said.
For Seguin, Katlyn Ranft led the way with eight points, while Taylor Bode had five in the loss.
Seguin’s difficulty with the pressure gives Brittain something to work on as Seguin prepares for the district season, which begins next week as the Lady Mats host Tivy at Goldie Harris Gym.
“It’s frustrating, but it gives us a starting point we can work on and get better for district,” Brittain said. “We’re going to be a third quarter team after this game, we’re going to practice hard and work hard. We’re doing a lot of things right, we just need a little bit more time and it’s all going to come together.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the Marion Bulldogs (2-3) fell to Hondo at home, 39-29, their third loss in row.
The Bulldogs struggled offensively in the first half, falling behind by 12 at 23-11.
“Early on we struggled against a really good defensive team,” head coach Kollyn McWhinney said. “They put a lot of pressure on us and made it difficult for us to shoot.
“But Lizzie (Abarameit) getting into foul trouble, she picked up her third about five minutes into the game and had to sit the rest of the half, that threw our offense out of sync.”
Molly Rooke led the Bulldogs with nine points, while Abrameit had eight in limited playing time because of the foul trouble. Lily Bek added seven.
“Lizzie’s just real confident, when she’s out on the court it makes everyone around her more confident,” McWhinney said. “Molly’s a heck of an athlete, she’s undersized for a post, but she’s quick and can shoot really well.”
Abrameit would make a three-pointer at the start of the fourth quarter that pulled the Bulldogs back within five, at 29-24. But the Owls stopped the run and outscored Marion 10-5 the rest of the way for the win.
“The second half we kind of found a rhythm again and were able to knock down some shots,” McWhinney said. “I’m happy with our improvement, we played a lot better in the second half.
“I’m happy with the effort, we were diving on the floor going after loose balls, getting deflections and really never stopped playing.”