(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
POPLAR BLUFF -- Plagued by a slow start, Scott City's deep push into the postseason came to an end Saturday afternoon in its Class 3 MSHSAA Quarterfinal matchup against Kennett.
Looking for the first trip to the Show-Me Showdown in school history, the Lady Rams committed nine first half turnovers on the way to a 22-point halftime deficit.
Unable to pull off a big enough rally in the final two quarters, Scott City saw the Lady Indians hold on for a 43-28 win.
"I'm not sure what the deal was," Scott City coach Ricky Keller said. "I just know the first quarter we dug ourselves a hole and just couldn't back out of it."
"I thought we battled back there in the third and fourth, but it was already too late."
Down 29-7 entering the third quarter, the Lady Rams put together their biggest drive of the night to keep their hopes alive, starting the half out on a 8-2 run to close back to within 16.
Fueling the charge, Melanie Lacey hit a bucket on Scott City's opening possession, followed by two straight buckets by Katie Hogan. Lacey added two more free throws to close the Lady Rams to within 31-15 with 3:42 left in the period.
"We knew that we had to slowly chip away at it," Hogan said of her team's deficit. "If we got within 10 points behind them, we could come back and win it in the fourth quarter.
"We just crashed the boards and tried to get a stop on defense."
It was soon after, however, that Kennett decided to change up its offensive game plan, passing the ball around the perimeter until Scott City was forced to come out of their set defense.
With long, pass-filled drives, Kennett was able to hold onto a 37-19 lead entering the fourth.
"(Scott City) went to a 2-3 the start of the second half and we had a big lead," Lady Indians coach Spencer Hoffman said. "Do you let them play or do you say no you're going to play us man? So I let them play for about three or four minutes and we weren't in a good flow really offensively.
"We just spread the floor and made them come out and guard us. Really from there we got back the momentum."
After closing back to within 15 on a 5-2 run with 4:58 to play, Scott City was unable to close in any further as the Lady Indians matched the Lady Rams point-for-point until the final buzzer.
Causing all of Scott City's trouble was a brutal first half where the Lady Indians held the Lady Rams to only seven first half points while winning the turnover battle 9-4.
Getting eight points from Jerica Wheeler in the first quarter and seven from Audrey Wynne in the second, the Lady Indians had amassed a 29-7 lead at the break. In that span, Kennett also outrebounded Scott City 15-11.
"That's the best half of halfcourt defense we've played all year," Hoffman said. "The kids we're just locked in on the defensive game plan and executed it to a 'T'.
"You absolutely couldn't ask for a better half defensively than what we had in the first."
A big key to the Lady Indians success on the night can be contributed to keeping the Lady Rams' big inside presence, Hogan, doubled up most of the night. Accustomed to scoring in the high-teens to low-twenties most games, Hogan was held to to only nine points Saturday.
"The Hogan girl is an excellent, excellent player and we knew coming in that was key to really locking her down," Hoffman said. "I thought, gosh, the second half we had two (girls) on her and still scored.
"She scored at least three buckets with two six foot kids having her surrounded. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to a good player."
Hogan also added eight rebounds and a block to the Lady Rams' cause. Leading the Rams, Lacey finished the day with 13 points, 10 rebounds and a block.
For the Lady Indians Wheeler's 14 points were a game high while Wynne and Alexandra Brown had 13 and nine points respectively.
Advancing to the semifinals, Kennett (29-2) will now play Stockton (26-3) Thursday at noon in Columbia at the Hearnes Center. The winner of that game will advance to the championship game on Saturday.
As for Scott City, the Lady Rams finish the season at 23-7 and lose four players to graduation this spring. Those four seniors are Lacey, Michaela Cobb, Stacey Heisserer and Lindsey Ressel.
"We obviously wanted to go to the Final Four, but they've met their expectations," Keller said of his girls. "They went over their expectations for most the people in our school and our fans.
"They've had a great year and you can't take anything away. 23-7 is one of the best records the school has had in 15 years."
SCOTT CITY (28) -- Stacey Heisserer 3, Michaela Cobb 1, Melanie Lacey 13, Katie Rhymer 4, Katie Hogan 9, Andrea Gray 2. FG 6, FT 16-24, F 18. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none).
KENNETT (43) -- Alexandra Brown 9, Jerica Wheeler 14, Anna Hilburn 5, Audrey Wynne 13, Veronica Amos 2. FG 15, FT 10-15, F 16. (3-pointers: Hilburn 1. Fouled out: Amos).