(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
POPLAR BLUFF -- With just under six minutes left in the ballgame, it seemed the Delta Lady Bobcats had things under control against the Naylor Lady Eagles.
That's when Naylor's Moriah Goodrum took over.
Goodrum scored nine fourth quarter points to lead Naylor to a 42-37 win over Delta in the state quarterfinals.
The fourth quarter began with both teams tied at 30. After Delta scored the first five points in the frame, including a 3-pointer with 5:53 on the clock, it looked as if Delta would pull away. Unfortunately for the Lady Bobcats, they would not score again until the closing seconds of the contest.
A layup from Ericka Engelman with 5:08 left to play kicked off a 12-0 run for the Lady Eagles that spanned almost five minutes and saw a five-point deficit turn into a seven-point lead.
"We had control of the game with about three or four minutes to go," said Delta head coach Mark Verticchio. "I think we just got a little too cautious, we didn't play to win, we played not to lose."
With 1:21 remaining in the contest, Naylor's Kendal Rodgers was fouled and went to the line for two shots. Despite missing both free throws, Rodgers was able to pull down her own rebound and get the ball to Goodrum who gave the Lady Eagles their first lead of the quarter.
"Rodgers had 15 rebounds, but she had a really big one there off of the missed free throw," Naylor head coach Gene Deckard said.
During the Lady Eagles' run, Goodrum posted nine of her game-high 22 points. Five of those points came from the free throw line, where Goodrum knocked down some clutch shots to help seal the victory for her team. She was 3-of-4 from the charity stripe in the final 30 seconds of the game.
"We tried to make sure that our senior went to the line," said Deckard. "She's stepped up big for us all year."
"We were forced to foul the wrong girls," Verticchio said. "We just had to hope they wouldn't knock their free throws down, but they hit the ones they needed to."
Following Goodrum's free throws, Delta was unable to score and was forced to foul. Katelyn Hughey capped off the Naylor run with a free throw.
Taylor Smith would finally put points on the board for Delta on their next possession, but it was too little too late.
Both teams got off to a sluggish start offensively in the contest. Despite having several open shots, the teams managed only 12 combined points in the first quarter, with Naylor leading 7-5.
Although the second quarter saw increased offensive production for both teams, the trend of missing open shots continued. Naylor was an ice-cold 6-of-22 in the first half, while Delta was 4-of-17.
"In the first half we just didn't make many shots," Verticchio said. "We're not talking about bad shots, we're talking about layups."
Delta was led in scoring by Smith and Machela VanGennip, who each finished with 11 points. The Lady Bobcats, who finish their season at 19-9, will graduate five seniors.
"They overcame so much adversity, and they had a great season," Verticchio said of his team.
Naylor will advance to Columbia for the state semifinals starting Thursday.
NAYLOR (42) -- Katelyn Hughey 8, Ericka Engelman 5, Moriah Goodrum 22, Kendal Rodgers 7. FG 14 FT 14-25 F 17. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none.)
DELTA (37) -- Taylor Smith 11, Kendra Burnett 4, Machela VanGennip 11, Tori Burton 2, Samantha Bartels 9. FG 13 FT 7-10 F 16. (3-pointers: Smith 1, Bartels 3. Fouled out: none.)