(Photos by Josh Mills, Staff)
BENTON -- The Scott-Miss tournament final match-up has been set in stone for 2009. The finale will feature a rematch of last season's championship bout between the Delta Lady Bobcats and the Kelly Lady Hawks.
Leading up to the finals, which take place tonight at 8:30 p.m. at Kelly High School, both squads had to suffer through difficult semifinal rounds with their respective opponents.
"The final score was not indicative of how close the game was," said East Prairie head coach Steven Douglas after the game. "We handled the ball well through three quarters, shot the ball well through three quarters, (then) we got behind, got a little frazzled and frustrated and got in a hurry. That team right there (Kelly) doesn't make too many mistakes."
Douglas said he was proud of his squad for holding Kelly's main scoring threat, Debra Hall, to just 10 points in the first half. He said that the defensive force the Lady Eagles provided was key to their tight game with the Lady Hawks down the stretch.
East Prairie trailed by just one point after the first eight minutes, 14-13. In the second quarter, the Lady Eagles pulled out to their biggest lead of the game, five points, with 3:04 left to play in the half. But from that point, the Lady Hawks began to pursue a victory as they chipped away until they finally regained control of the scoreboard and eventually pushed their lead out of reach.
Kelly trailed at half 30-28, but as they took over the lead in the third, they never fell behind again. What had worked for the Lady Eagles in the first half, fell silent in the second half as Hall finished with 12 points in the final 16 minutes giving her 22 on the evening.
Douglas attributed the loss to the lack of press breaking ability in the final quarter. He said that their inbound passer on the press break, Lydia Cartwright, fouled out and from that point on frustration set in on his squad.
"I was proud of our effort," said Douglas. "We've never been able to play with them. I told them (our girls) we get them one more time in the regular season and if you win districts you have to go through Kelly. That's all there is to it. We'll have another opportunity, but, I was proud of our effort."
Douglas said his squad now feels like they can play with anybody on the floor after battling all eight games this season. He said of his team's 2-6 record, that almost every team the Lady Eagles have lost to has a winning record.
Jennifer Nicholson led the way for East Prairie with 16 points. Grace Swann added 13 in the loss.
As for the finals contender, the Lady Hawks, now 10-1 on the season, head coach Rod McQuerter said that he is just proud of his squad for making the finals of the tournament once again.
"Every team we play this year, they're going to come out and play hard," said McQuerter. "I'm just proud of my girls. They came out, they competed and they had a positive attitude. Give East Prairie credit, they came out and played hard also."
McQuerter said that he played nearly his entire bench in the victory, but leading the way once again for Kelly was Hall with 22 points. Behind Hall on the box score was Londyn Backfisch who racked up 17 of her own.
"We're trying to get to a championship game and we can't expect anything less than a good basketball game," said McQuerter. "I'm blessed. I've got good girls, I cannot complain. I'm enjoying the ride."
The next ride McQuerter and his Lady Hawk squad will take is with the Delta Lady Bobcats tonight in the championship game at 8:30 p.m.
In the final contest of the evening, the Delta Lady Bobcats pulled out a squeaker against the Oran Lady Eagles, 53-48, advancing to the championship game tonight against Kelly.
The Lady Bobcats collapsed late in the game, giving way to an 18-point comeback from Oran before all was said and done. Delta gained a commanding lead and stronghold on the contest early, leading 27-14 at halftime.
In the third quarter the Lady Bobcats extended their lead and with 4:59 left to play they led 35-17 and seemed to be cruising towards the championship.
The Lady Eagles however, refused to go down easily as they took the remaining 12 minutes and change to charge back and make a case for themselves against the Delta squad. By the end of the third quarter Oran found themselves within nine points, trailing 41-32.
It was a team effort by the Lady Eagles in the turnaround, as several players got involved on the scoring frenzy as well as the rebounding effort on both ends of the floor. Cheyanne King carried a bulk of the load as she racked up seven points in the final eight minutes of play. Kirstie Mangels added five in the last quarter including a 3-pointer.
With 2:34 left on the clock Oran took their first lead of the game, 46-45, behind King's jumper in the lane. There were a few missed opportunities between both squads and then Delta eventually knotted the score at 48-48 with 57 seconds remaining.
The Lady Eagles controlled the ball with around 31 seconds left, but a quick shot in the paint and a missed put-back gave the Lady Bobcats the ball and an opportunity for the win. Taylor Smith was sent to the line for Delta where she knocked down two straight and that was enough for the Lady Bobcats as they held strong for the final 19 seconds, paving the way for another finals bid.
"We beat ourselves tonight," said Oran head coach Adam Friga after the game. "But, I'm not going to overlook the effort that our kids gave tonight. I was very proud of them. We didn't play well but we played extremely hard and we played as a team. We did not give up and we battled, battled, battled. I'm dang proud of them for that."
King led the way for the Lady Eagles, finishing with 18 while Mangels added 11. Amanda Williams, who provided a solid performance on the glass, finished with seven points and was 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
"We're doing just what we want to do," said Friga. "We're getting better for February."
The Lady Eagles, 3-5, will battle East Prairie for third place tonight at 5:30 p.m.
For Delta, Smith led in scoring with 12 points. Jodi Menz and Katie Brucker each finished with 11 in the win.
"We quit," said Delta head coach Mark Verticchio after the game. "We thought the game was over after (we had an) 18 point (lead). We were up 35-17. That's inexcusable. Then, when the game got close, we quit attacking."
"You could swear we were stalling and I didn't want to stall," he added. "We played very good for two quarters and maybe six minutes then we fell apart. But, it's a win, it's a ballgame."
Verticchio said his squad, now 8-3 on the year, will have to control the tempo to gain a win tonight against the Lady Hawks. Championship tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.