(San Antonio, Texas)-The 31-5A Edinburg Vela Lady Sabercats (30-5) had its chances on Friday night at the Littleton Gymnaisum Blossom Center in San Antonio as they lost to 25-5A Liberty Hill (31-9) 56-52. With the loss, the Lady Sabercats were eliminated from the University Interscholastic League Girls Basketball Region IV-5A Semifinals playoffs. “We were so close,” says Vela head coach, Lottie Zarate. “We missed our opportunities.”

The Lady Sabercats watched the Lady Panthers convert 21-of-23 free throws, including seven in the final period. “We had the advantage after they (Liberty Hill) were in foul trouble. We just didn’t make those free throws tonight,” added Zarate. The Lady Sabercats had its opportunities. Instead, they faltered at the free throw line by only making 14-of-22 free throws, giving the Lady Panthers their rebounds and fast break points off those missed shots. Liberty Hill center, Evie Bruce went to the free throw line in the third quarter making four of four shots, putting the Lady Panthers up 24-22 with 7:41 left in the third period.

The Lady Sabercats team was dealt with an early blow when Lady Sabercat Karsyn Hackerott hit the hardwood court, and fans could hear her cries as the Littleton Gymnasium went silent. She was carried off the floor. The Lady Panthers took advantage of Hackerott out, and both Lady Panthers Gabriella Munday and Ella Granda hit three-pointers to give the Lady Panthers a 40-37 lead after three periods. With the Lady Panthers in foul trouble in the third period, the Lady Sabercats went to the foul line and converted 7-of-13 free throws. At one point, the Lady Sabercats were down 31-23.

In the final period, Zarate brought her team back after Lady Sabercat, junior Janai Coleman raced down the court and hit a shot to make it 41-42 and again, Coleman would nail a crowd-shouting three-pointer to put the Lady Sabercats up 44-42 with 5:29 left to play. The Lady Panthers took advantage of the fouls by the Lady Sabercats, as they went to the line eight times, and made seven free throws in the final period. Sophomore GG Bentacourt hit a three-pointer with :11 seconds left to play to make it 54-52. Lady Sabercat Emma Lucio scored 15 points and junior Janai Coleman added 20 points. Liberty Hill was led by Munday with 20 points and Bruce added another 16 points.

In the Region IV-5A finals, the Lady Panthers lost to Converse Wagner 64-48 as the Lady Thunderbirds (28-4) advanced to the UIL State 5A Tournament this weekend and will play Frisco Liberty (27-10) in the semifinals. The winner will meet Lamar Fulshear (33-5) or Lubbock Cooper (30-6) in the finals at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

GG Bentacourt from Edinburg Vela dribbles past Liberty HillGabriella Mundy. (HSSMIMages)