Lady Bulldogs lose battle of state-ranked squads

BROWNSVILLE – The Lyford Lady Bulldogs were stopped in the area round of the UIL Class 3A state playoffs by the Bishop Lady Badgers in a battle of state-ranked teams.

Bishop, ranked No. 13 by the Texas Girls Coaches Association and No. 17 by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, defeated Lyford 78-15 on Thursday at Kingsville King. The Lady Bulldogs, ranked No. 19 by the TGCA and No. 24 by the TABC, ended the season 23-6 and as District 31-3A champions with an undefeated 16-0 record.

“Tough one today. We didn’t start off very well. They punched us in the mouth pretty quick,” Lyford coach Teresa Gutierrez said. “We tried to do some different things, give them different looks, but we didn’t even get any shots off. That was the disappointing thing, that the shooters that should’ve been shooting weren’t shooting. It was just one of those games.

“I don’t want this to take away from what they did in the season,” she added. “Going 16-0, doesn’t matter who you’re playing, isn’t easy. You still have to show up and compete in those games, and I was proud of them for doing that.”

The only preparation Lyford had for the contest was a shootaround Thursday morning before heading to Kingsville due to the severe weather issues. Gutierrez said the time off was evident in the way her girls started. This week was just the latest set of challenges Lyford faced this season, and Gutierrez was proud of the way her girls continually stepped up to face adversity. She expressed gratitude toward Kingsville King for allowing the team to get to the gym three hours before tipoff to get reacquainted and shake off some rust.

Gutierrez said her usual top scorers had a tough time against a stingy Bishop defense. The Lady Badgers made it a point to keep Lyford’s Damaris Bermudez, the “go-to kid” in the offense, covered at all times, often by more than one defender. Despite the tight coverage and large deficit, Gutierrez credited Bermudez and some other key underclassmen for their performance on Thursday.

“(Bishop was) constantly on her, so even when she cut, even with screens and stuff, she never had any space. They did a really good job of taking her out of the game,” Gutierrez said. “Marley Perez as a sophomore came along well this year, had some big games for us. Emily Gonzalez is our lock-down defender. (Bishop’s Katie Winters), we felt that was their difference maker, so we stuck Alyssa (Garcia) on her and she did a really good job of guarding her.”

Bermudez scored five points, and Gonzalez and Romo each added four. Though it was a tough way to end a stellar season, Gutierrez said there were positives that came from the final game. She got every Lyford player that traveled to the game on the court, and she believes those valuable minutes in a big contest will be beneficial for her younger players next season.

Gutierrez also got to send her three seniors — Sabrie Romo, Catarina Payan and Alyssa Cortez — off in the traditional Lyford way, by putting them all on the court to play together during the final minutes. Gutierrez and the Lady Bulldogs were grateful for the chance to take the court this year, and they made the most of it despite all the odds.

“I’m very grateful that our district gave us the opportunity to play,” Gutierrez said. “Every week was a different set of challenges. It was good to see the kids bounce back each week, each game, and meet those challenges. We’re losing three seniors, and they all contributed. They’ve been with me since middle school … so I’ve literally watched them grow up. They got to end the season together on the court.”