(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
BENTON -- Defense knocked off the reigning champs.
Early pressure from the Kelly Lady Hawks proved too much for the two-time defending Scott-Mississippi Conference champion Delta Lady Bobcats on Thursday night as a big first half lead led to a 54-31 finish.
The Lady Hawks hard work began from the opening tip where they scored 13 unanswered points.
Most of Kelly's scoring opportunities came from very stout defense that frustrated the Lady Bobcats early in the first quarter.
They caused eight turnovers in the first quarter alone which were mostly steals that were generated from their full-court press. The Lady Hawks also out-rebounded Delta 28-23 throughout the game.
Eight of those points were put up by Kelly's main scoring threat Debra Hall. Hall, who also scored the games first six points, was a cool 7-for-8 from the field in the first half. Numerous times, a baseline jump shot was Hall's shot of choice.
"It all goes back to her teammates in the summer time," McQuerter said. "And these girls know it's not the Debra Hall show, it's the Lady Hawks show. I tell the girls all the time, Debra Hall is going to come and go but the Lady Hawks will be here forever."
With a combined effort from Hall and stellar Kelly defense, the Lady Hawks flew out to a 16-1 lead after the first quarter.
Delta's first basket came at the 1:25 mark in the first quarter as Courtney Burton sank 1-of-2 free throws.
From that point on it was all Kelly.
Even more defense and hot 3-point shooting from Tara Johnson aided a 31-6 lead at the half. Johnson connected for three 3-pointers in the first half and ended up with four total.
"It was mostly from my teammates passing it to me," Kelly senior Tara Johnson said. "I couldn't have made it without them. They were good passes and that's what sets me up."
Delta seemed to shake off what had happened to them in the first half with an evenly played second half.
"I told the girls at halftime to go out there and try to win the second half. And they did," Delta head coach Mark Verticcio said. "I think that was a moral victory for us."
Delta (8-4) outscored the Lady Hawks 25-23 in the second half but they were too far down.
"We just got ambushed," Verticcio said. "You've got to give Kelly all the credit in the world."
The Lady Bobcats were led in scoring by Taylor Smith's 19 points. Smith drained four 3-pointers and was 7-for-8 at the free throw line. Jodi Menz added four points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
"Delta is one of the top teams in the state of Missouri," McQuerter said. "They have one of the top coaches in the state of Missouri and for us to come out and get a win tonight -- I'm just happy."
Hall led Kelly with 27 points, six steals and six rebounds. Johnson's four 3-pointers totaled her with 12 points.
"We just work hard together and did a lot this summer to get here," Kelly senior Lana Whitworth said about winning the conference tournament. "We just work hard and work together as a team."
Kelly (11-1) will host Scott City on Monday for their next game.
The Oran junior varsity survived a huge scare in their conference championship game against the Charleston Bluejays on Thursday night.
With 15 seconds remaining, Charleston grabbed the rebound off of a missed free throw from the Lady Eagles. As the Lady Bluejays worked the ball around to try and find a shot, one appeared as Qualithia McCatrey found herself alone right by the basket.
With just seconds remaining McCatrey put up a shot that rolled right off the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Oran held on for a 39-38 win.
"A lot of the kids that came from junior high have never been in an atmosphere like this," Oran head coach Adam Friga said. "We got a little rattled but at the end of the day, they did enough to win."
This was the junior varsity's second straight conference title which only means good things are to come.
"It says that these J.V. kids need to hurry up and get to varsity," Friga joked. "But, they're doing a good job. We practice our J.V. just like we do our varsity. We don't cut them any slack just because they're younger because that is going to be our future."
In a battle of Eagles on Thursday night, the Oran Lady Eagles took care of the East Prairie Eagles 54-29 in the third place game of the Scott-Mississippi Conference tournament.
Cheyanne King led all scorers with 20 points. East Prairie was led by Jennifer Nicholson's 14.