(Photos by Josh Mills, Staff)
CHAFFEE -- The semifinal round of the Chaffee Lady Devils Invitational was completed on Thursday evening, and after the smoke cleared the Delta Lady Bobcats found themselves in the championship game after holding off a gritty East Prairie Lady Eagle squad. Delta led by as many as 12 points in the game, but East Prairie wouldn't go down easily as they forced the game back to within three points but fell short in the end by a final of 39-32.
For the Lady Eagles, it was a battle all game long on the boards against Jodi Menz of the Lady Bobcats as they seemed to alternate rebounds each time a shot was missed. East Prairie's Megan Hedges and Whitley Rundles fought it out with Menz and her Delta teammates for four quarters, but the difference in the game proved to be Menz's rebound on a free-throw for a put-back goal that sealed the Eagles' fate.
"If you hold Delta to 39 points, then you've played pretty good defense," said Douglas. "I thought at the end we might be able to pull it out. I was real proud of the girls, I thought that they came back in the second half with good heart and got back in the ballgame."
The score at the break was 26-15, in favor of Delta, and Lady Bobcat head coach Mark Verticchio said that if his squad would've hit their shots then the outcome would've been more in the favor than just seven points.
"We played a decent first half," said Verticchio. "We tried to warn them not to go stagnant in the second half, and we did. Our offense quit moving and we got a little nervous. This was the first time where we'd been in the situation where we had to score. Tonight, nobody wanted to shoot."
The Lady Bobcats managed just four points in the third quarter while East Prairie cashed in for 10. Rundles and Jennifer Nicholson each scored four points in the third and Lydia Cartwright added two.
"That third quarter defense was about as good of defense as I've ever seen," said Douglas. "We had one foul and we really stopped them."
Douglas said that they managed to come back to within just a handful of baskets and then Menz got a rebound and put-back that sealed the game for Delta.
"We were down 12 at one time and cut it down to three," he said. "We missed a couple of shots that would've made it closer, then she (Menz) got that rebound off the free throw that put the nail in the coffin. They (Delta) shot extremely well, but I'm proud of the girls and they've made great strides. I hoped to come away with the win, but we get to play Saturday in the third place game."
Menz and teammate Taylor Smith scored well under their season average against East Prairie, but three other players stepped in and posted numbers that aided the Delta victory. Menz led the Lady Bobcats with 16 while Smith recorded 10. Both Menz and Smith hit two 3-pointers apiece.
Verticchio said that it was good to get offense from other players aside from his two returning varsity members.
"Besides Jodi (Menz) and Taylor (Smith) none of these girls have even dressed for varsity before," he said. "We don't have the experience. We're playing nine girls and seven of them have never stepped out on the floor for varsity. We're still a work in progress, but it's a good win for us and now we get a shot to play Kelly on Saturday."
He went on to say that East Prairie played a good game and felt like they hung in there when they easily could've given up.
The Lady Eagles now play Scott City for third place on Saturday afternoon. Their contest is scheduled for 3 p.m. Delta will square off with Kelly at 4:30 p.m. It will be the third consecutive season in which the two squads have met in the championship game. The Lady Bobcats have won each of the two previous match-ups.
In the first contest of the evening, the Sikeston Lady Bulldogs were eliminated from the tournament as they fell to the Chaffee Lady Devils 60-50. The Lady Bulldogs fell behind in the first quarter 18-8 but managed to make more of a game out of the contest before the final buzzer sounded.
In the second half Sikeston outscored Chaffee 32-31, but the first quarter proved to be the difference as they couldn't overcome the large deficit.
Sikeston head coach, Homer Jackson, said that his squad is picking up their play as the season goes along.
"Tonight, we fought for four quarters," said Jackson. "We're closing the gap. I thought the girls played really well down the stretch after being down so many points. I was pleased to see them do that."
"I think they surprised themselves," he added. "I think that we'll learn from that and we're going to have to learn from that because we're going to play Dexter at home on Thursday."
Jackson said that Tanesha Pulley performed great for the Lady Bulldogs in the second half and stepped up her game in the final quarter. Pulley finished with 10 points, but Darqueisha Howard led Sikeston with 12.
The Lady Bulldogs are now 0-3 on the season.
As for Chaffee, Amber Kirk's 20 points led the Lady Devils to the consolation championship. Kirk scored 14 of her 20 in the first half, where Chaffee did most of their damage.
The head coach for the Lady Devils, Courtney Urhahn, said that she was proud of her team for posting their first victory of the season.
"I think we played with heart, commitment and dedication tonight," Urhahn said. "I think we played well as a team."
The victory was a team effort for the host team as six players contributed to the victory. Behind Kirk's 20 points was Hannah Bedwell, who scored 12 and Taylor Kirchdoerfer and Anna Ayers who each scored nine points apiece. Madelyn Kiefer scored eight and Randi Wiley scored two to round out the list for the Lady Devils.
Chaffee, now 1-3 on the season, will share the court with the Oran Lady Eagles on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in the consolation championship.