With Delta, the No. 2-ranked team in Class 1, holding on to a slim 33-30 lead going into the final quarter, Shea Smith took charge. Smith, a 5-foot-7 junior, tallied 17 of the Bobcats' 20 fourth-quarter points as she finished with a game-high 26.
"Shea is a tremendous free throw shooter and, in the late going, if we can get the ball in her hands and she gets to the free-throw line, we know we're going to score," said Delta coach Randy White.
Smith sank 13-of-14 from the line, hitting 10 straight at one point, to almost singlehandedly carry the Bobcats into the quarterfinals with their second straight sectional win over Scott Central.
Scott Central (12-11) scored the first six points of the game, but four successive turnovers ushered Delta to its initial lead at 7-6. The Bravettes went scoreless the last 5 minutes of the quarter.
The Bobcats held a 9-6 edge after one quarter.
Neither team generated much offense in the second period either as Scott Central closed to within two at 13-11.
Delta (26-1) outscored the Bravettes 6-2 in the closing moments, with an unexpected lift from reserve sophomore guard Sarah Keys who scored the last four points of the quarter, for a 19-13 halftime advantage.
"Sarah Keys is one of our 'B' teamers," said White. "Our 'B' team was 21-1 this year and there are some kids that play smart basketball in that group and Sarah is one of them. I was really impressed with the way she came in and played."
In the third quarter, the Bravettes chewed into the Delta lead, finally pulling into a tie at 30 with 1:00 to go. An effective press and balanced scoring from five Bravettes keyed the comeback.
However, Penrod felt the Bravettes failed to take advantage of several opportunities.
"We just didn't capitalize a lot of times after we pressed and got the ball," she said.
Then Keys stepped up once again, knocking down a huge 3-pointer to send the Bobcats up 33-30 as the quarter ended, a lead they would never relinquish.
Following a Smith drive to open the fourth quarter, a conventional 3-point play by Scott Central's Brittney Peet narrowed the gap to 35-33. Peet, the quick 5-5 guard, led the Bravettes with 19 points.
"I swear it looked like every time I looked up she (Peet) had the ball and was going to the hole," said White. "She's a tremendous little penetrator."
Smith would not allow the Bobcats, winners of two previous meetings over the Bravettes this season, to be denied.
Handling the ball on nearly every possession, she either made a shot from the field or made the Bravettes pay at the charity stripe.
"We normally shoot free throws real well," said White. "We got there early in the second half and that's a big plus. "We were trying to spread 'em out a little bit and look for the opportunity to drive."
Kaci Menz and Keys were scoring runners-up for the Bobcats with eight points apiece and Ashley Deprow added seven while Samantha Jones was second-leading scorer for the Bravettes with 11.
"We just had no flow tonight," said Penrod. "I guess it's back to the old grinder. At least I've got them all back and we'll try it again next season."
Delta will meet defending state champion Chadwick (25-4) at the Civic Center in West Plains on Saturday at 1 p.m. Chadwick, which defeated the Bobcats in last season's quarterfinal, was a 61-59 winner over Lutie in its sectional.