The state-ranked Stephenville Honeybees didn’t improve their basketball season record in the 61st annual Whataburger Tournament last weekend, but they did gain in more important ways.

The Honeybees won their first game in the three-day tournament on Thursday, Dec. 27, 54-45 over Winnsboro. But they dropped two the following day and lost a third on the final day. However, those opponents were far from ordinary teams.

Defending Class A champion Nazareth, a perennial powerhouse again ranked No. 1 in the state, took a 57-48 victory over SHS that Friday morning. In their afternoon game that day, the No. 1 team in Class 4A — unbeaten Levelland — edged out the Honeybees, 46-44. On Saturday in their final game of the tournament, the Honeybees lost a 55-49 decision to the second-ranked Class A team in the state, Dodd City, which was the runner-up to Nazareth in last year’s state tournament.

Thorpe said it was a great tournament for the Honeybees.

“(The) win/loss record does (not) reflect the valuable experience we gain against some of the very best teams in the state,” Thorpe stated. “It definitely helped prepare us for district.”

Stephenville went into the tournament ranked among the top six school in the state in two polls. They were No. 5 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches poll, and sixth in the Texas Girls Coaches Association rankings.

Now with a 16-6 season record, half of the Honeybees’ losses have been to teams ranked first in the state in their respective classifications. In the Great East Texas Shootout in Brownsboro, they lost to unbeaten Martin’s Mill, the defending Class 2A state champion and No. 1 in the state.

In the victory over Winnsboro, which was ranked 13th in last week’s Class 3A TABC poll, Alee McClendon led the Honeybees in scoring with 16 points. Jayci Morton, who was able to play in all four games after sitting out about a month recovering from a knee strain, contributed 13 points.

Against Nazareth, Kassidy Nowak led SHS with 15 points, and Madison Gilder added 10 points. The Honeybees outscored the Swiftettes in the second and fourth quarters, but it wasn’t enough the team that is gunning to improve on its state-record mark of 22 state championships this March.

In the narrow loss to Levelland, Stephenville held a 10-9 lead at the end of the opening quarter, and was ahead 21-19 at intermission. Levelland moved ahead in the third quarter with a 13-8 scoring edge. Hannah Bernays led the Honeybees with 11 points and Morton struck for 10. The Loboettes have won seven state championships in 10 state tournament appearances.

On Saturday against Dodd City, three Honeybees scoring in double figures. Autumn Nichols and Morton provided 11 points each, while McClendon scored 10.

The Honeybees start District 7-4A play on Friday (Jan. 4), taking on Mineral Wells at home in Gandy Gym. The varsity game was scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. start.