High School Basketball

Tigers ‘hold the rope,’ punch ticket to playoffs

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 2/2/21

With her team struggling over the past three weeks, Katy High girls basketball coach Shanna Marhofer went searching.

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High School Basketball

Tigers ‘hold the rope,’ punch ticket to playoffs

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With her team struggling over the past three weeks, Katy High girls basketball coach Shanna Marhofer went searching.

She needed something, anything, to motivate and lift up her Tigers. The team had hit a rough stretch where it lost four of five games and was also dealing with the loss of senior guard Asya May, who was averaging 11 points per game, to a bone bruise injury.

“In the past, something I heard was ‘hold the rope,’ which can mean a lot of different things, but for us it means ‘come together,’” Marhofer said. “You throw a rope to someone when they’re in a pool drowning or hanging off a cliff and you don’t let it to go. You’re willing to bleed holding that rope to keep your friend, your teammate, alive. We embraced that mindset.”

That, they did. When the season was on the line, the Tigers stepped up.

Katy topped Taylor, 34-24, in each team’s district finale Tuesday evening for the fourth and final playoff spot in District 19-6A. Katy, which has won three of its last four games, improved to 11-9 overall, 5-7 in district play. Taylor ends its season 9-10, 4-8.

“It was a very important game for us, especially with Asya being out,” said senior guard Sasha Fernandez, who had a team-high 12 points. “We wanted to carry her load. Coach Marhofer talks about ‘holding the rope,’ like helping and holding each other up, as a unity thing. We didn’t want this to be her first time as a head coach to not make the playoffs. We wanted it really badly.”

The emotional win had an inauspicious start for Katy.

The Tigers trailed 15-13 at the half in large part to 12 turnovers. Taylor, behind the impressive play of junior guard Sheridan Shaw (game-high 13 points), was the one with momentum and energy.

“It was a big game, and these kids haven’t had to play in district games where if we lose, we’re done,” Marhofer said. “There were a lot of nerves early, without a doubt.”

But everything turned Katy’s way in the second half.

“Everybody was ticked off at the fact we weren’t playing as well as we know we can,” Fernandez said. “We had that mindset to get it going. The mindset was this wasn’t for ourselves, this was for our whole team.”

Marhofer saw her team start to compose itself a bit after halftime, taking better care of the ball and ramping up the defensive intensity. The Mustangs only scored nine points in the second half. Four of those came on free throws.

The game was close until senior guard Amber Bourgeois drilled a huge 3-pointer, her second in three attempts, late in the fourth quarter to put her team up seven, 30-23.

“I was just so into the game that my only focus was to keep it going,” Bourgeois said. “I made the shot and our whole thing just became to protect the lead. It wasn’t about offense, even. We got back on defense and made sure they didn’t score to get that win.”

From there, Fernandez closed it out by hitting four clutch free throws in the final minute. Taylor, meanwhile, missed seven of 10 free throws in the final period, and 13 of 19 overall.

Katy received contributions from everywhere. Fernandez, who added three rebounds and three assists, was key controlling the ball and making sound passes while hitting two of five 3s. It was her smooth, quick pass under tough defensive pressure that resulted in Bourgeois’ big 3 late.

Bourgeois added eight points and four rebounds. Sophomore forward Brianna Nelson had four points and a team-best eight rebounds. Senior forward Aubrey Ridenhour hit a big 3 in the third quarter to help spark the Tigers’ comeback.

In her first start, sophomore forward Lyric Barr hit a couple of big 3-pointers to go with four rebounds.

“We had to carry what Asya provided for us through the rest of us, and they’ve done that,” Marhofer said.

Now the Tigers get to play another day; to be exact, against 20-6A champ Dulles in the bi-district playoffs Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. at Hopson Field House. And Marhofer’s playoff streak remains intact. Her teams have yet to miss the postseason in her six years at the helm.

“We really had to realize what we were playing for,” Bourgeois said. “Coach tells us to ‘hold the rope,’ and that brought us together. It made us realize that, no matter what, we’re going to win together or lose together, but be together.”

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