Kelly struggled, but got past fourth seeded Caruthersville Lady Tigers, 70-63. In a upset, NMCC stormed back to defeat No. 2 seed Portageville Lady Bulldogs, 63-61.
Kelly (22-6) will battle NMCC (14-13) for the championship on Friday at 6 p.m.
The Lady Eagles outscored Portageville 40-26 in the second half to record the upset.
NMCC responded over the last two minutes of the first with a 8-0 run and trailed 18-14. After Portagteville's Brittney Walker nailed two free-throws with only a second remaining on the clock in the quarter, the Lady Eagles could feel fortunate only trailing 20-14 heading into the second quarter.
"Our girls are mostly very young and they came out somewhat nervous, "said NMCC head coach Lance Tollison. "After we settled down late in the first quarter, we figured out we could play with Portageville. The little run we made in the first really built the kids confidence."
The Lady Bulldogs regained control in the second quarter with solid play from Penn and Walker. Portageville led 31-17 with 1:30 to play in the first half. Penn scored five points in the quarter to finish with 16 points in the half. Walker also had five points in the quarter, including a long 3-pointer. NMCC trailed 35-23 heading into halftime.
"The girls really came out on fire in the first half," said Portageville head coach Eric Ellerbrook. "We were pushing the ball up the court and putting the pressure all on NMCC's defense."
Early in the third, NMCC went on a 9-2 run to get back into the contest. The Lady Bulldogs then slowly started to pull away after the Lady Eagle run and led 41-33 late in the quarter.
Just as they did early in the third quarter, NMCC ended the quarter on a flurry with a 5-0 run to cut Portageville's lead to 41-38 with 20 seconds left until the fourth.
Senior Hannah Rone switched the momentum over to the Lady Bulldogs heading into the final quarter with a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter. Heading into the fourth, Portageville led 44-38.
The game seemed to swing in favor of Portageville with 4:30 to play in the contest. Leading 49-47, Penn scored on a drive to the basket and was fouled. Penn missed the opportunity for the conventional 3-point play, but Walker soared for the offensive rebound and got the putback to put the Lady Bulldogs up 53-47 midway through the game.
The story of the contest for Portageville was their inability to maintain possession of the basketball. With the Lady Eagles seemingly on the ropes, the Lady Bulldogs committed back-to-back turnovers that led to easy baskets for NMCC. With three minutes left in the fourth, Portageville led 55-53.
"It is hard to explain," said Ellerbrook, "but we just had a mental lapse late in the game. We didn't do a lot of things right tonight. We didn't rebound, we didn't take care of the ball, we forced shots and we didn't pass well."
The Lady Eagles tied the game at 55 on a steal and breakaway lay-in by freshman Shameika Williams. Although inexperienced, Williams led the way for NMCC in the fourth quarter with 12 points.
Rone stepped up for the Lady Bulldogs after the game was tied with 2:50 to play in the contest. Rone found Walker all alone in the paint for an assist and then drew a charge on the defensive end to inspire her teammates.
After the charge, Portageville took advantage as Penn hit a short jumper to put the Lady Bulldogs up 59-55 with 1:50 to play.
Once again, Portageville turnovers helped NMCC get back into the game. Trailing by two, the Lady Eagles got a huge steal from Heavenly Wren who found Williams open for an uncontested lay-up to tie the game with 35 seconds on the clock.
Jasmine Beasley gave the Lady Eagles their first lead of the game with 25 seconds to play by making two free-throws. Rone responded for Portageville with a hard drive to the basket for two, to tie the game with 15 seconds on the clock.
Williams scored the game-winning basket for NMCC with seconds left in the game. The Lady Bulldogs drove down the floor for a game-tying shot, but the shot fell short and NMCC captured the win.
"Our girls battled all game long," said Tollison. "We were physical and active on defense which caused a lot of turnovers. The strength of our team is our big girls and they performed well tonight. This was a big win for our girls and the program."
Williams led the Lady Eagles with 23 points and had four steals. Wren tossed in 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds (four offensive), while Beasley ended her night with 10 points.
Freshman Jasmine Flennoy controlled the boards for NMCC with 10 (five offensive) and had six points. Senior Paige Jimerson had nine rebounds (four offensive) and chipped in six points.
"I give a lot of credit to New Madrid," said Ellerbrook. "They hustled and played very well for a young team. They are going to be tough to deal with for a few years."
NMCC won the rebounding battle, 37-35, and had 13 steals as a team.
Penn was dominate for Portageville and finished with a game-high 31 points with 10 rebounds. Walker netted 14 points, had eight rebounds, with four steals. Rone ended her stellar career with 13 points.
The Lady Bulldogs committed 21 turnovers for the game, including 11 in the fourth quarter alone.
Portageville (20-7) will miss the services of their three seniors for next season. Rone, DeAnna Deere and Lauren Kellams were outstanding players for the Lady Bulldogs. However, Ellerbrook feels the loss will be felt more off the court.
"My seniors were good on the court," said Ellerbrook, "but more importantly, they our great in the classrooms. They are just a fine group of young ladies. I just love them and we will miss them. Nobody has to worry about those three. Whatever they do in life, they will excel."
The Lady Hawks push past the Caruthersville Lady Tigers with a solid second half on the offensive end.
Caruthersville led at the half, 38-34, as junior Leola Hubbard dominated the action early. Hubbard finished with 16 points in the first half and the Lady Hawks struggled to contain the dynamic guard.
However, Kelly rallied in the second half by pounding the ball in the paint and held Hubbard to only two second half points.
"Caruthersville is a very athletic and talented team," said Kelly head coach Rod McQuerter. "They are tough to deal with because they are so good and strong. They take the ball hard to the basket. Our girls came out in the second half with more intensity and they really stepped up their pressure."
Kelly jumped on the Lady Tigers early in the third quarter with a 13-1 run to put the Lady Hawks up 47-39 midway through the quarter.
Sophomore forward Debra Hall led the charge offensively for Kelly with eight points in the quarter. Junior Sarah Ruff set the tempo defensively for the Lady Hawks by shutting down Hubbard in the second half. Hubbard had two points in the third and didn't score in the fourth. The Lady Hawks outscored Caruthersville 20-11 in the third quarter to lead 54-49 heading into the final quarter.
"It is real simple why we improved on defense in the second half," said McQuerter, "the girls focused on the fundamentals of defense. They moved their feet instead of reaching and our help-side defense also improved late."
With Hubbard bottled up, junior guard Kyisha Ricks tried to carry the load in the fourth quarter for Caruthersville. Ricks pumped in 12 points for the quarter and the Lady Tigers were back within striking distance late in the contest.
Kelly led by three points through much of the fourth quarter. The Lady Hawks led 66-63 with 28 seconds left, when junior Kayla Cissell drained two clutch free-throws to put the lead at five points.
On their next offensive possession, Caruthersville missed an open jumper and Kelly secured the rebound with 13 seconds to play. Senior Brittany Ponder hit two free-throws to ice the game for the Lady Hawks.
"We beat ourselves with the number of turnovers we committed," said Caruthersville assistant head coach Lamont Bell. "We started out well on offense in the first half, but we missed too many easy shots in the second half. We can't do that against a well-coached and talented team like Kelly."
Ricks led the Lady Tigers with 20 points, dished out three assists and grabbed three steals. Hubbard ended with 18 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Junior Tierra Perry had nine points and six rebounds. Caruthersville had 15 steals as a team and forced Kelly to commit 21 turnovers in the contest.
Caruthersville (12-10) has no seniors on their roster and a couple of freshman contributed against Kelly. Katrina Taper ended her night with eight points, eight rebounds and seven steals. Rondreka Ricks chipped in eight points as well.
"Our kids fought hard to the end," said Bell. "Kelly is a very good team and they are going to be tough to beat in this tournament. Hopefully, this is not the last you hear from us. We are going to come back with a vengeance next year."
Hall was a monster in the paint for Kelly with 20 points and a game-high 17 rebounds (nine offensive). Ponder ended with 15 points. Kelly controlled the boards with a 43-25 advantage over Caruthersville, including 20-7 on the offensive glass.
Ruff not only contributed on the defensive end, she had a stellar night on offense as well. Ruff ended with 13 points, six rebounds, four steals and had three assists. Cissell contributed 10 points off the bench for Kelly.