DEXTER -- Still dealing with the loss of leading scorer Katelyn Hughey to a thumb injury several weeks ago, the Naylor Lady Eagles managed to hold off the Delta Lady Bobcats, 55-50, Tuesday to claim their second straight trip to the Class 1 quarterfinals.
While holding the Lady Bobcats scoreless from 3-point range until halfway through the fourth quarter, the Lady Eagles hit seven shots from behind the arc in the first three frames to pull into the final period up 47-41.
"She's been out for two weeks and the girls had a chance to practice without her," Naylor coach Gene Deckard said. "Of course a player like Katelyn we're going to miss her, anybody would, but the girls came out, responded and played very well."
Going ahead by seven on a Kendal Rodgers basket midway through the fourth, Naylor saw Delta engineer one final push to tie with the Lady Eagles in the closing minutes to try and save their season.
Starting with a Machela VanGennip bucket with 3:50 to play, the Lady Bobcats quickly closed their deficit to two when, only seconds later, a Naylor turnover allowed Burton to knock down Delta's only 3-pointer of the game to make it 50-48.
It was with 1:53 left that VanGennip was fouled driving to the basket, hitting the shot, but missing the ensuing free throw to tie the game at 50-50.
Missed opportunities on Delta's their next several possessions, however, allowed the Lady Eagles to once again pull back on top, hitting 4 of 8 free throws in a minute span to go ahead 54-50 with 35 seconds remaining.
Coming up empty-handed on two final 3-point attempts that that were rebounded by the Naylor, the Lady Bobcats saw the Lady Eagles hit one more free throw to close out the game.
"I don't know, we just had an off night," Samantha Bartels said of Delta's 3-point shooting. "We have our (on) days and then when we have our off days. I could tell when we were warming up I wasn't on."
In her last game as a Lady Bobcat, Bartels finished second on the team with 15 points while grabbing five rebounds.
Leading Delta was VanGennip, whose 22 points and 21 rebounds were game-highs. Rachel Bartels added six points to the Lady Bobcats cause while Burton finished with five.
"We got (Delta's Tori Burton) out of the game quick," said Deckard. "She came back in the third quarter, we dumped it right back down low, got a foul and set her back down again. We feel like that was one of the big differences in the ball game. We took one of their two main cogs away from them."
The Lady Eagles needed someone to step up and make up for the loss of Hughey's 17.5 points-per-game and that person turned out to be Kendal Rodgers.
Rodgers scored a team-high 16 points and collected 14 rebounds for Naylor while also hitting a buzzer beater to end the third quarter that pushed the Lady Eagles' lead to six entering the fourth.
"We've practiced and practiced and practiced passing the ball to Kendal," Naylor's Holly Deckard said. "Her scoring has improved a lot and without her we wouldn't have won this game."
Deckard finished second on the Lady Eagles with 14 points.
Naylor will now play Exeter, two years removed from a state title, Saturday at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff for a chance to advance to the championship game. Tipoff is at 2:45 p.m.
As for Delta, the Lady Bobcats finish the year at 19-10 and will lose two seniors in Samantha bartels and Rachel Bartels to graduation.
"Overall I think we made a lot of progress (this year)," Delta coach Randy White said. "We had a couple of kids that had very little varsity experience and they came around and really, really contributed. Hopefully that will help pay off for next year."
DELTA (50) -- Rachel Bartels 6, Machela VanGennip 22, Macey Parks 2, Tori Burton 5, Samantha Bartels 15. FG 20, FT 9-13, F 19. (3-pointers: Burton 1. Fouled out: none).
NAYLOR (55) -- Taylor Day 7, Andrea Sullivan 7, Rachel Morris 2, Ericka Engelman 9, Holly Deckard 14, Kendal Rodgers 16. FG 18, FT 12-24, F 13. (3-pointers: Day 2, Sullivan 2, Deckard 2, Engelman 1. Fouled out: Rodgers).