Lovelady battled Hubbard down to the wire, but the Lady Lions came up short 62-59 in a bi-district matchup Monday night at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens.
The Lady Lions clawed their way back from a nine-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to get within a point with :33 left in the game.
Trailing 57-48, Lovelady senior Caitlin Robinson drained back-to-back treys to quickly make it a three-point game, 57-54, with 3:20 left.
A free throw gave Hubbard a four-point lead with 3:03 left, but a put-back by senior Elexus Pickrom cut the lead to 58-56 with 2:55 left.
Following a turnover by the Lady Lions, Hubbard scored to take a 60-56 lead with 1:15 left.
After a time-out to strategize, the Lady Lions worked the ball to Hannah Burleson who drove in for a bucket and drew a foul.
Burleson knocked down a free-throw to complete the crucial three-point play and pull Lovelady to within a point, 60-59, with :33 left.
Hubbard picked up its final two points on a pair of trips to the foul line. The Lady Lions had a couple of late opportunities but were unable to get the ball through the rim.
In the first quarter Lovelady jumped out to a six-point lead, but Hubbard went on a 12-4 run to slip in front 18-16.
Hubbard outscored the Lady Lions 16-9 in the second quarter and carried a 34-25 cushion into halftime.
The Lady Lions came out smoking in the second half, outscoring Hubbard 17-9 in the third quarter.
Stringing together a 15-2 run that included buckets by Emily McClure, Burleson and Pickrom, the Lady Lions wrestled their way in front, 40-36, with 2:45 to go in the third.
Hubbard finished the quarter with a 7-2 run and carried a 43-32 lead into the final frame.
"Every time Hubbard pulled away, we answered the bell. We had plenty of chances to tie the game or win it. That's all you want is chances right at the end. Unfortunately the ball didn't bounce our way as far as getting in the hole," said Lovelady Head Coach David Beaver. "But I'm tremendously proud of this team's efforts."
Emily McClure led the Lady Lions with 15 points (1 trey), followed by Caitlin Robinson with 13 (4 treys), Elexus Pickrom with 12 and Hannah Burleson with 10 (1 trey). Sarah Thompson chipped in 4 points and Jamie Mora added a free throw.
Hubbard senior Tyseheunna Hawthorne scorched the nets for 40 points and sophomore Brenea Lewis canned 20.
"My hat's off to Hubbard's No. 12 (Hawthorne). She shot lights-out tonight. She was obviously the difference in the game and kept them in it. She basically won it for them," said Coach Beaver.
"It was all little things that added up throughout the game. But we showed Hubbard we were right there and just as good as they are. I expect they are going to go a ways in the playoffs," said Beaver. "This was a learning experience for all of our young players and my challenge to them is how we are going to respond now. They got a taste of the playoff atmosphere tonight."
The Lady Lions were hoping to avenge last year's 57-52 loss to Hubbard in the regional quarterfinals,
Hubbard finished second in District 19-2A behind powerhouse LaPoynor, which is ranked as high as No. 2 in the state.
"They played LaPoynorvery close in single-digit games both times. That kind of ruffled my feathers, and certainly the girls. District 19 was disrespecting our district and they rolled in here thinking this was going to be a cakewalk. But if the ball bounces a certain way, they're the ones going home instead of us," said Beaver.
Beaver will lose a trio of seniors-- Robinson, Pickrom and Schuylar Schultz.
"Lovelady will be back vying for that top spot, but we know Centerville is a really good team and they'll be back. Slocum, who I expect to possibly go to state this year, is dropping to 1A next year," said Beaver. "Big Sandy will be moving into the district next year. We beat them once this year and they have a lot of really good shooters."