On a day in which former MHS coach Bill Todd and his '87 squad were honored for the first of their three straight championships, the Lady Owls won the 32nd Wildcat Classic final with a 44-41 overtime decision Saturday over top-seeded Glasgow -- the state's seventh-ranked Class 1 club.
"It's awesome" said Marshall senior Stephanie Markes about her team's first tourney title since 2008. "We're playing as a team. We all love playing."
"I wanted this so bad for them," remarked head coach Tony Willis. "It's what these kids deserved. They worked so hard."
For the second week in a row, the Lady Owls were shorthanded for the first-place game, senior Jashawna Terry -- a defensive stopper in the back-court -- sidelined by illness. However, it wasn't the Lady Yellowjackets' guards who gave Marshall problems, but senior forward Nikki Fuemmeler.
Fuemmeler scored all 10 of Glasgow's first-quarter points, the Lady Owls going dry for four minutes to fall behind by seven points before three free throws and senior Alex Bledsoe's steal and pull-up jumper closed the margin to two points.
There would be four lead changes during the second period, but the third frame went much the same as the first: Fuemmeler alone accounting for the Lady 'Jackets' 12 points.
Marshall was down by eight points before senior Whittni Ervin struck twice from close range and was able to contain Fuemmeler momentarily by muscling her away from the basket.
"Whittni's one of our smarter players," Willis said. "She's hard to stop down low. It changed the momentum of the game."
Sophomore Molly Evans connected from outside to get the Lady Owls to within a point before Fuemmeler closed the stanza with a conventional three-point play.
It would be over four minutes before Glasgow scored again. Senior Karson Heying knocked down a baseline 12-footer, finished a fast break off a Markes rebound and sank a free throw to put Marshall back in front midway through the fourth quarter.
Points would be hard to come from the rest of the way. Fuemmeler tied the game from the stripe with 58 seconds left and then came up with a steal, but tight defense by Markes on sophomore guard Abby Thompson forced a five-second call.
"I knew it was coming," Willis declared. "Even when [Thompson] started driving, I knew [Markes] wasn't going to back down from her."
Junior Payton Davis' defense produced an over-and-back violation on the Lady Owls, but her potential game-winning shot with four seconds to go was blocked by Heying.
The tough defense continued into overtime, neither team scoring for three minutes before Markes stepped to the free-throw line with 57 seconds showing. She had missed three of four attempts during the second half, but hit both this time.
"I took a deep breath, that's all I did," Markes said. "I knew I had to make them."
Fuemmeler converted the first of two freebies, but Evans and Markes were both perfect from the stripe to put Marshall up by five points with 16 seconds left.
The Lady 'Jackets got to the line with 10 seconds to go, Thompson making both. Marshall missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Thompson's three-pointer was off the mark and Markes grabbed the rebound as the horn sounded.
"That's the kind of defense we play every night," Willis said. "We're struggling a little offensively, but you win games with defense."
Fuemmeler finished with 32 points and 15 boards for Glasgow (15-4), which had won its two previous tournaments this season.
For the Lady Owls (12-5), who hadn't played for a championship before last week's Wellington-Napoleon Tournament, it was a break-through accomplishment. However, they now return to the grind of the NCMC, starting Tuesday at Moberly, for a stretch run towards the district tourney.
"We've got to catch our breath," Willis said after Marshall's ninth game of the last three weeks. "We're going to have some tests and those will be a measuring stick."