The Gainesville Lady Leopards saw their season come to an end Monday with a 57-46 loss to the Commerce Lady Tigers in the bi-district round of the Class 3A playoffs.
Gainesville (21-10) qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1997, but it was a lack of offense in the second and third quarters that ultimately doomed them.
After scoring 22 points in a back-and-forth first period, the Lady Leopards only managed one field goal in the second quarter and just two in the third. But despite that, they only trailed by four (39-35) going into the fourth period.
A basket early in the fourth by Destini Flowers brought Gainesville within two (39-37), but Commerce scored baskets and was fouled on consecutive possessions to extend their lead to 8. Gainesville got within six in the final two minutes and had a chance to cut the deficit to four with a pair of free throws, but both foul shots rimmed out and Commerce scored the final five points for the final margin.
There was plenty of offense in the first quarter. The Lady Tigers took an early 10-4 lead, but Gainesville answered with three 3-pointers from Kiarah Manuel. Ariannah Kemp added a pair of buckets and two free throws as Gainesville trailed 23-22 going into the second.
Free throws by Zhanice Lane and a bucket by Kemp helped Gainesville tie things up 26-26, but that would turn out to be the last time they were able to stay even. Gainesville did not score another field goal the rest of the second quarter, and only managed two more in the third, including yet another 3-pointer from Manuel.
Kemp was 10 of 12 from the free throw line and finished with 18 points. Manuel hit four 3-pointers and had 14 points. Also for Gainesville, Brittany Royal and Lane each added 6 and Flowers scored 4.
The future looks bright for Gainesville, with just one senior (Annette Kirk) graduating and a talented eighth-grade class coming up.