(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
BROSELEY -- Before their third place game in the Twin Rivers Holiday Classic against the Naylor Lady Eagles on Saturday night, the Kelly Lady Hawks practiced just hours before.
"I'm just glad that they came this morning (Saturday) to practice," Kelly head coach Rod McQuerter said. "That was the key. A lot of teams wouldn't do that. They came this morning (Saturday) and practiced because they really wanted to win this third place trophy for the school."
Practice seemed to pay off.
Kelly held on to defeat the Lady Eagles 49-44 to claim a third place trophy.
"Amazing," McQuerter said. "I'm the happiest coach in the world. Out of 16 teams, to come here and play four quality teams like we played and to win third place; I'm honored."
Kelly had to fight off a quick start by Naylor, who ran off an 8-0 run with a combined effort from Cheyenne Hollowell and Cheyenne Ragsdale.
Londyn Backfisch scored the Lady Hawks first points from the free throw line with two made buckets at the 4:03 mark.
Naylor would go on to lead the Lady Hawks 11-6 after the first quarter but Kelly came storming back in the second quarter.
The Lady Eagles built up a nine point lead at one point in the second period but a 15-4 run that included back-to-back buckets from Backfisch gave Kelly a 23-21 lead heading into the break.
That lead would eventually hold for Kelly but the Lady Eagles made it a little more interesting towards the end of the fourth quarter.
With 2:40 left in regulation Kelly held a comfortable 44-35 lead. One 9-2 run later Kelly held a slim 46-44 lead with 31 seconds remaining.
"That's what good teams do," McQuerter said about Naylor's fourth quarter run. "They were going to make a run and we knew that. Our girls were patient and they had a positive attitude."
Their patience showed at the free throw line with Backfisch and Katee Moore. Backfisch sank both of her free throw attempts with 23 seconds left to put the Lady Hawks up 48-44. After a missed opportunity from Naylor, Moore, who finished with seven points and six rebounds, sank another free throw to completely put the game out of reach and insure a third place finish.
"I'm very proud of our girls," McQuerter said. "To leave this tournament 3-1; wow. I'm just happy."
With the Lady Hawks senior standout Debra Hall caught up in foul trouble for most of the game, juniors Backfisch and Sam Fisher stepped up big. Backfisch helped with a game-high 17 points including 9-of-11 from the free throw line and four steals while Fisher made her presence felt under the basket with eight rebounds. She also scored four points.
"We preach to our team that we're not one dimensional," McQuerter said. "It's not the Debra Hall show. It's the Lady Hawk game. They found out tonight that 'hey we could probably play basketball without Debra Hall.' That's why I'm very proud of our girls. It's a team game not an individual game. So, I'm very proud that we came out and played as a team instead of playing one dimensional tonight."
Besides the limited play, Hall finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Ragsdale led the Lady Eagles with 13 points and seven rebounds. Moriah Goodrum added nine points and three steals.
Kelly (7-1) will host the Sikeston Bulldogs on Thursday following their third place finish at the Holiday Classic.
"Our girls are happy and we're ecstatic," said McQuerter. "We're looking forward to our next games."