Coming off a demoralizing defeat Thursday in the state semifinals, Scotland County rallied from a double-digit deficit on Friday to bring home the Missouri Class 2 third place trophy with a 49-41 win over Oran.
Neither team got off to a hot start, with Scotland County finally breaking the scoreless drought when Chelsea Wood scored in the paint to make the score 2-0 with 5:43 left in the first period.
The senior center carried the load early on, scoring the first eight points for SCR-I, which led 8-5 with 2:21 left in the period.
Calesse Bair connected on a three-pointer to give SCR-I a 11-7 lead. But Oran closed the period on a 5-0 run to pull ahead 12-11 to close the first period.
After playing Thursday in a slugfest that saw just 16 total fouls called, SCR-I took a while to adjust on Friday night when the whistles were flowing more freely. The Lady Tigers were called for 11 first half fouls, with Maddie Brassfield, Wood and Ashleigh Creek all forced to the bench with foul trouble, the latter two with three fouls each.
Wood opened the second period with a bucket in the paint on a nice pass from Creek to put SCR-I on top 13-12.
Abi Feeney scored on a drive to the hoop to tie the score at 16-16 with 3:59 left in the first half. With Creek and Wood both on the bench, Oran went on a 12-0 run to build a double-digit lead.
Kaylyn Anders hit a huge jumper to end the run. Feeney knocked down a long jumper before Wood sank a free-throw line shot for a 6-0 SCR-I run that trimmed the lead to 28-22 at halftime.
The momentum carried over into the second half, as Brassfield canned a three-pointer. Feeney sank a pair of free throws before Bair found the range from long distance. After a 1-13 shooting performance in the first half, the senior hit back-to-back three-pointers to pull the Lady Tigers ahead 33-31 with 2:36 left in the third period.
“I think we were pressing a bit early on, and took some shots we don’t normally take,” said Coach Cory Shultz, after his team went 1-11 from three-point range in the first half.
The Lady Tigers got big-time contributions off the bench from Anders and Madie Bondurant, who both came up with big steals. Feeney punctuated the third period rally when she beat the buzzer with a jumper to put the Lady Tigers ahead 35-31 with just eight minutes left in their season.
“Our bench doesn’t get enough credit,” said Shultz. “Madie and Kaylyn really kept us in this one after we got in early foul trouble.”
Scotland County continued to pull away to start the fourth period. Bair sank another three-pointer and then converted on a fast break score created by a steal by Feeney. Two Feeney free throws followed by another bucket from Bair gave SCR-I a 45-33 lead with 4:19 left to play.
But Oran would not go quietly, even with the defense clamped down on leading scorer Leah Cauble. Kaylee Payne converted a three-point play and then sank two more free throws to trim the margin to 47-41 with 1:25 left to play. Free throws by Feeney and Bair followed by another steal by Anders helped seal the 49-41 victory.
After scoring 16 points in the first half, Cauble, who averaged more than 34 points a game in the regular season, was held to just two second half free throws. her 18 point output was her second lowest of the year.
“We switched to a 2-3 zone to start the second half, mostly because we were in foul trouble, but it slowed down her penetration,” said Shultz. “Then we closed out in a box and one, with Kaylyn really hounding her in the fourth quarter.”
Anders finished with three points, three steals and a pair of rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench while Bondurant contributed 14 big minutes as well.
Bair rebounded from the slow start to lead Scotland County in scoring with 17 points, 14 coming in the second half.
“Just because of a bad start, doesn’t mean you quit shooting,” said Bair. “You have to shoot your way through it because you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Wood had 14 points and 10 rebounds while Feeney finished with 11 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.
Scotland County finished the year with a 28-2 record, compiling a 98-13 career record for the five graduating seniors, including 82-6 over their final three years.
“These girls have made me look good,” said Shultz referencing his career coaching mark of 82-6. “I’ve only got a few losses in my career and it’s all because of them. When you have athletes like them, anyone can coach them and have a winning record.”