By GREG WILLE
BELTON – Ellie Erwin outscored cold-starting Troy 8-2 in the first quarter Thursday night and came close to outscoring the Trojanettes through three periods.
The strong senior post’s steady production near the basket dominated the game as she exploded for 33 points, sparking No. 22-ranked Academy to a 52-38 victory over old Bell County rival Troy in the area round of the Class 3A girls basketball playoffs at Tiger Gym.
The Lady Bees (27-7), the unbeaten District 19-3A champions, won their 10th straight game and advanced to next week’s Region III quarterfinals. The second-round win was career victory No. 300 for head coach Brian Pursche, whose Academy program has reached at least the third round of the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons.
The Lady Bees will battle No. 2 Fairfield (35-1) at 6 p.m. next Tuesday at Hearne High School. Fairfield, last season’s 3A state runner-up, blasted Rice 73-35 on Thursday for its 33rd consecutive win.
The third-round girls showdown will be part of an Academy-Fairfield postseason doubleheader. Academy’s district champion boys team (24-7), ranked No. 10 in the state, will play Fairfield (15-14) in bi-district action at 7:30 p.m. next Tuesday at Hearne. The Bumblebees of head coach James Holt were 3A state semifinalists last season.
The Lady Bees scored the first 11 points against Troy (21-11), which tied West for second place in 17-3A. The sturdy, 5-foot-11 Erwin made four close-range baskets and junior guard Hannah Garmon sank a 3-point shot before the Trojanettes finally ended their drought with a bucket by senior guard Graycee Mosley with 27.5 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Academy junior guard Rhea White made three 3-pointers – one in each of the last three quarters – to contribute nine points, and Garmon added six points on two 3s. The Lady Bees’ only other scorer was junior point guard Payten Conde with four.
Mosley, an East Texas Baptist commitment in volleyball, led Troy with 19 points, 12 in the second half. She and sophomore guard Kaycee Cavanaugh, who scored 16 points, made two 3-pointers each. Troy’s only other scorer was sophomore guard Kylee Farmer, who made a second-quarter 3.
Troy’s defense had no early answers for the powerful Erwin as she scored four inside baskets in the first 2½ minutes, staking Academy to an 8-0 lead. The Trojanettes managed to keep Erwin scoreless for the remainder of the opening period, but Garmon’s first 3 pushed the advantage to 11-0 at the 1:35 mark.
Troy was scoreless for more than 7½ minutes before Mosley’s basket with 27.5 seconds left made it 11-2.
Coach Tucker Donohoe’s Trojanettes steadied themselves and made their move in the second quarter, as Cavanaugh’s 10 points – highlighted by two 3-pointers – and Mosley’s five points helped Troy outscore Academy 18-14 to slice the Lady Bees’ lead to 25-20 by halftime.
The second quarter actually was Erwin’s most productive as she scored four baskets and made three free throws for 11 points, but Academy's only other points came on a 3 by White.
The Lady Bees regained full control in the third quarter, getting eight points from Erwin – two short-range baskets and four free throws – and outscoring Troy 18-8 in the period to seize a 43-28 lead. Conde scored all four of her points in the third and Garmon and White each made a 3-pointer.
The active Mosley did her best to keep Troy afloat during a physical, intensely played final quarter, scoring nine points. However, a Cavanaugh free throw provided the Trojanettes’ only other point. Erwin tallied six more points in the fourth to finish with 33 as Academy extended its lead to as much as 21 points at 50-29 with 4:52 remaining.
The Lady Bees next will compete against a powerhouse Fairfield program that won the 3A state championship in 2020 and lost to Brownfield in last season’s 3A state title game, 68-64 in overtime. This season’s Lady Eagles have recorded 33 straight wins since a 51-47 loss to 4A sixth-ranked Waco La Vega on Nov. 20.