Lady Owls rally to win title

Monday, January 30, 2017
Junior Taylor Crawford hit a pair of three-pointers to help the Lady Owls come back from a 12-point deficit to beat defending champion Santa Fe for the Wildcat Classic title. (Chris Allen/Democrat-New)

SLATER -- The Marshall girls' basketball team rode its longest win streak in over 20 years into the championship game of the 36th Wildcat Classic at Slater.

The second-seeded Lady Owls emerged Saturday with its ninth straight win: a come-from-behind 49-38 victory over top-seeded Santa Fe, ranked 10th in Class 2. With four weeks remaining in the regular season, Marshall's 13 wins are the most since the 16-9 district champions of 2008, who never won more than seven in a row.

"It feels great, to play a great team like that," exulted first-year MHS head coach Paul Alberson. "We didn't play our best half" in the first, "but came back out and played Lady Owl basketball."

It was the Lady Chiefs who asserted themselves early in seeking their third straight crown. Winner of its last nine regular season and district tournaments, Santa Fe's man-to-man produced four quick turnovers -- three on steals by senior Kylee Kuecker -- to open the contest with a 9-0 run.

"I would almost say our pressure defense caught them by surprise a little bit," noted Lady Chiefs head coach Jeremy Hobbs. "Because they're such good ballplayers, they adjusted and reacted. They got a lot more aggressive going north and south."

Marshall was also attacking the offensive boards, getting nine second-chance points during a first half which saw a 20-8 deficit trimmed to six by intermission.

"Once we settled down and let the environment soak in, we handled it better," Alberson said. This was only the second time the Lady Owls had played for the big trophy since taking the 2013 Classic title with a 44-41 overtime decision over Glasgow. They fell to Grain Valley in the Marshall Tournament finals earlier this season. "We hope we're in the situation at some point that we're not nervous coming into big games like this."

There were no signs of nerves from Marshall after the break. While Santa Fe is too good to crumble, the Lady Owls were able to keep its shooters under control. The Lady Chiefs shot 23.1 percent from the field during the second half, including 0 for 10 from three-point range, to open the door for a comeback.

Marshall's gradually closed the gap, pulling even on sophomore Kassidy Heying's put-back early in the fourth quarter and taking its first lead when senior Elizabeth Pomerenke sank two free throws. Junior Sadie Limback got inside to put Santa Fe back in front with 3:52 left in the game, but that was the team's last field goal.

Heying connected from outside to begin the Lady Owls' game-closing 12-1 run, which included 10 straight made free throws -- four each by Heying and junior Lyssa Agcalon.

The Lady Chiefs (16-1) were led by Limback's 17 points and 11 rebounds. The focus is now on defending their I-70 Conference regular season title and making the playoffs for the third year in a row.

"This is the best tournament we've been in, a lot of good teams," Hobbs said. "No matter the result, this was a good week for us."

Marshall (13-3), resumes NCMC play Tuesday by hosting Moberly, got 12 points and four steals from Heying and 10 points and three blocked shots from junior Taylor Crawford.

"They just keep getting better," Alberson said of the Lady Owls' progress. "It' starting to click and it's fun to watch."

Sweet Springs 62, Slater 61

Sophomore Sydney Vaught drilled seven three-pointers Friday, scoring 28 points to pace Sweet Springs to a 62-61 overtime decision over Slater for seventh place.

The Lady Greyhounds took a four-point lead into the fourth quarter, but senior Abby Head and freshman Abby Uhlich combined for 19 of the Purple's 28 points during the stanza to force the game's extension.

Senior Mariah Harper came through in the clutch for Sweet Springs (8-10), making two overtime buckets -- the second with a free throw tacked on -- in overtime and finished with 23 points.

Freshman Emily Grimes topped the Lady Wildcats (4-15) with 17 points. The two teams meet again Tuesday at Slater.

Boys

Santa Fe 56, Sweet Springs 36

Junior Andrew Edwards' 21 points led Santa Fe during its 56-36 victory over Sweet Springs for the consolation title Friday.

The Chiefs opened up an 11-point halftime lead and secured the win with a 21-11 third period.

The Greyhounds (11-7) were topped by senior Lucas Eberting's eight point.

Senior Dobber Burton had 13 points for Santa Fe, which hosts I-70 Conference foe Lone Jack on Tuesday.

Pilot Grove 71, Slater 64

An 11-4 overtime spree gave Pilot Grove a 71-64 victory over Slater in the seventh-place game Friday.

Neither team led by more than a bucket at the end of any regulation period, but junior Steven Bell's bomb in OT gave the momentum to the Tigers (5-14), who got 18 points each from senior Brady and junior Cole Mize.

Junior Latrell Johnson led the Wildcats (5-14) with 18 points, with junior Dillion Stoneking scoring 14.

Contact Chris Allen at callen@marshallnews.com

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