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Late shot lifts Kelly

Sunday, March 5, 2006

(Photo)
Kelly players and fans erupt after Nikki Weiny hits the game-winning shot.
POPLAR BLUFF -- Sometimes even a busted play can be a team's best friend.

The Kelly Lady Hawks can testify to that after defeating Greenville 50-49 in Friday night's Class 3, District 2 championship game at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff.

After a timeout with 8.9 seconds remaining in the game, Kelly scripted a play for junior guard Brittany Ponder.

Ponder dribbled towards the top of the key but had the ball knocked loose. Junior Nikki Weiny scooped it up and was able to drive in for a short bank shot with 2.8 seconds left.

Greenville (14-12) couldn't get the ball in bounds in time for a final shot as the Lady Hawks erupted into a wild celebration on the court.

(Photo)
Kelly's Mindy Roberts
Kelly, which topped Greenville in the title game for the second straight season, will face Doniphan in Wednesday night's sectional at Poplar Bluff High School at 6:30. The Donettes crushed Caruthersville 94-61 in District 1 action Friday night at Malden.

"We initially ran a play for Brittany Ponder but they tapped the ball from her," said Kelly coach Rod McQuerter. "Nikki happened to be in the right place at the right time, she didn't give up, and she made the layup. She did a great job of staying focused."

The shot gave Kelly its second straight district title and third in the last four years. Kelly, which has now won 10 district championships, also eclipsed the 20-win plateau for the seventh year in a row.

"This is a very special season because we lost a lot of talented girls last year," said McQuerter. "To win 20 games this year is outstanding for our program. It's a wonderful feeling. This is our seventh year in a row to win 20 games. To win 20 games with mainly freshmen and sophomore players says a lot for our seniors."

Greenville coach Diane Meyer said the loss was a bitter pill to swallow.

"We had the ball tipped and it was rolling around, we just couldn't get to it," said Meyer. "When (Weiny) picked it up, her momentum was going to the basket and we didn't even get a chance to foul. That was one of the hardest ones I've had to take. I think they know that since they're young, they're going to be back here. We've got more years to come to do this."

Greenville's Sarah Woodgeard, an athletic 5-foot-10 sophomore, had a brilliant performance spoiled as she tallied a game-high 36 points, sinking 15-of-16 from the free-throw line, including two to put the team ahead 49

-48 with 12 seconds left.

"What do you think about my sophomore?" said Meyer. "She's indescribable as an athlete. I've been coaching 13 years and I haven't had that good of an athlete. I think that's a name around here that everybody is going to remember for awhile."

Woodgeard's performance also caught the eye of McQuerter, who knew his team would have its hands full with her heading into the game.

"She's a very tough player, probably one of the top players in the area," said McQuerter. "We knew we couldn't stop her, we just wanted to contain her and hope that she wouldn't win the game at the end. She almost did, but luckily the ball bounced our way."

In a game that featured 10 ties and 17 lead changes, it basically came down to which team had the ball last.

"We just kept a positive attitude and stayed patient and focused," said McQuerter. "The game isn't over until the horn sounds. If it's meant to be then it's going to happen. The seniors didn't panic in the end. If it wasn't for our seniors, we would not be district champions today. Even though we were down one, we stayed focused."

As the two teams exchanged leads in the fourth quarter, Kelly didn't do itself any favors from the free throw line. The Lady Hawks were just 2-of-7 from the line in the final 1:23 of the game, including a missed one-and-one. They were 13-of-27 from the line in the game.

Woodgeard scored 11 of the Lady Bears' 12 points in the fourth quarter. Most of her points were on drives to the basket.

"When she had the ball in fullcourt, we didn't want her to slow up," said Meyer. "We told her, 'You get the ball and you're in fullcourt, you go to the hole.'"

She tied the game at 47-47 with 42 seconds left on a conventional 3-point play.

On the ensuing trip, Mindy Robert was fouled after an offensive rebound. She made 1-of-2 free throws to give Kelly a 48-47 lead.

Following a Woodgeard missed shot, Kayla Cissell rebounded and was fouled with 21 seconds left. However, Cissell missed both free throws as Woodgeard cleared the rebound leading to a Greenville timeout.

Nine seconds later, Woodgeard was fouled as Robert tried to get an offensive foul on her. She calmly made both free throws, setting up the final sequence.

"We preached stops yesterday in practice," said McQuerter. "We knew (Woodgeard) would get a lot of points tonight, but at the end we wanted to make them very tough. That's when we doubled and tried to make it tough on her."

Kelly (20-8) held the early lead in the game at 9-5, the biggest of the night for either team, but Woodgeard scored eight points in the final 1:31 of the quarter, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Lady Bears a 13-9 advantage after one.

The two teams stayed close throughout the second quarter as Kelly was able to trim the lead to 23-21 by halftime.

The Lady Hawks creeped even closer in the third quarter to cut the lead to 37-36 heading into the final frame.

Ponder made two free throws with 6:36 left in the game to give the Lady Hawks a 39-37 lead. They wouldn't trail again until Woodgeard's free throws with 12 seconds left.

Greenville out-rebounded Kelly 22-19. But Kelly's pressure forced 18 Lady Bears turnovers. Kelly turned the ball over 12 times.

The Lady Hawks were led by Weiny's 11 points. Ponder had nine points and Sarah Ruff added seven.