Stephenville (4-2) played pressure defense and forced Abilene Wylie (4-2) into 20 turnovers to steadily pull away from the defending 3A state champ at Gandy Gym Tuesday night.
Merideth Culpepper poured in 17 points and Sheridan Stokes netted 14 to lead Stephenville to the 50-37 victory, the Honeybees' third win in four straight games against 2012 state tournament teams.
Culpepper was at her best in the fourth, scoring nine points as the Bees stretched their advantage from four with 5:37 left to as many as 15 in the closing moments.
Stokes did her best work at the free throw line, where she was 9-12.
Mary McPherson led Wylie with 15 points, nine of them from outside the arc.
Wylie scored five straight to cut its deficit to four early in the fourth, but the Bees, much as they had all night, had an answer. Culpepper drained a big triple from the left corner, Stokes knocked down two free throws and Breyana Diaz followed a Wylie free throw with a 15 footer from the left elbow to make it 42-32 with 2:41 remaining.
Stokes, Culpepper and Meagan Parsons combined to go 7-8 from the free throw line in the final minute to seal it.
Wylie had 14 turnovers before halftime, propelling Stephenville to a 24-18 lead at the break. The Honeybees had a 10-0 run beginning with a Tiara Green 3-point basket to even it up at 10-10 after one. They would never trail again.
Culpepper scored inside and Diaz got a steal and a two, forcing Wylie to take a timeout just 30 seconds into the second. Cassidy Cline hit a 3 from the top of the key to make it 17-10 with 5:40 left in the half.
The run ended when Wylie hit a put back to touch off a string of six straight Lady Bulldog points. Stokes righted Stephenville's ship with a 3-ball for a 20-16 lead with 1:54 left.
A Culpepper layup and a pair of Stokes free throws gave the Bees their largest first-half lead, but McPherson stole the ball and converted the takeaway into a layup just before the buzzer to make it a six-point game at the break.
Wylie scored the first four of the third, but Stokes and Leslie Billings each hit a free throw, Cassidy Cline knocked down a runner and Cline found Culpepper ahead of the pack in transition for a fast-break bucket as the Honeybees kept the Lady Bulldogs at arm's length and led 32-26 entering the fourth.
Diaz scored seven for Stephenville, Cline and Green each netted five and Parsons and Billings both added one.
The Honeybees recorded three double-digit victories in a four-game stretch that appeared brutal on paper. They defeated 2A Region I champ Jim Ned 56-40, fell at 2A state champ Brock 54-39 then returned home to thump 3A Region III champ Lorena 41-24 before the Thanksgiving break.
Stephenville could see Brock again this weekend. The Honeybees are in the Brock Showcase Thursday-Saturday.