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By: Corey Stott
EWING, Mo.- (1/6/21-1/9/21)- The Scotland County Lady Tigers (6-3) entered the 2021 Highland Tournament as the #2 seed, and that proved true as they brought home the second-place plaque.
The Lady Tigers faced several unknowns coming into the week. They lost junior forward Abby Curry to a knee injury before the holiday break in action at Harrisburg. “We haven’t played a game without Abby,” Coach Cory Shultz said. “We’re still figuring out our rotation.” The frontcourt wasn’t the only unknown coming in. “I didn’t know what kind of shape we’d come back in after the break.”
Fortunately for Shultz, the answer to the first question was the emergence of Alaynna Whitaker as a force inside. The answer to the second question? “I think we were about where we needed to be,” Shutlz said, in regards to his team’s conditioning after the holidays.
The first test for the Lady Tigers was to be a re-match with the Highland Lady Cougars. However, Covid had other ideas, and due to an exposure for the Highland ladies, the Lady Cougars were forced to bow out of the tournament, which effectively gave Scotland County a first-round bye. That placed the Lady Tigers in a championship semi-final bracket with the #6 seed Kirksville Lady Tigers (2-7), who advanced by way of a 47-39 victory over Clark County.
Scotland County controlled the opening tip, and Hannah Feeney promptly buried a 3-pointer from the corner. But Kirksville’s Kenslie Stufflebean had the answer with a 3-pointer of her own. Whitaker made a shot from the block to put the Lady Tigers up 9-8 with 2:33 remaining in the period, and Scotland County took a 14-8 lead into the start of the second quarter.
In the second period, Kirksville outscored Scotland County 11-9, but the Lady Tigers from Memphis still held a 23-19 halftime lead, led by Whitaker’s nine first-half points along with seven from Feeney.
Scotland County came out a little flat to start the second half, and at the 2:59 mark, Kirksville’s Channing Totta hit a 3-pointer to take a 29-28 lead. Kylee Stott had the answer with a baseline jumper to retake the lead 30-29. After outscoring Kirksville 12-11, Scotland County led 35-30 after three quarters.
With 1:11 left to play, Kirksville pulled within three when Erica Treasure nailed a 3-point shot. But Kirksville was forced to begin fouling and Scotland County made the free throws they needed down the stretch to open up the lead and secure the 47-39 victory.
Feeney led all scorers with 15 points, and Whitaker scored 14. Kirksville’s Totta tallied 12 points, and Treasure scored 10.
“I think we played well as a whole, both defensively and offensively,” Shultz said. “Whitaker’s going to have to really step up for us and she did exactly that.” He added that he was pleased with their defensive effort. “We caused havoc on defense for their guards, and they didn’t like it very much.”
The victory over Kirksville set up a championship matchup with the Macon Tigerettes (10-1), a team that is currently in the top-10 in Missouri Class 4 high school women’s basketball. After the Kirksville game, Shultz said he was excited for the opportunity to face Macon. “We’re looking forward to being in that game and seeing what we’re made of.”
Macon took the opening tip but promptly turned it over. Scotland County’s Stott was fouled at the other end and made both free throws to give the Lady Tigers a 2-0 lead. But Macon’s Lexi Miller answered with a 3-pointer and the Tigerettes never looked back. Their full court defensive pressure turned the Lady Tigers over and created transition points, and at the end of the first quarter, Macon led 16-4.
The Tigerettes continued to dominate the paint and after outscoring the Lady Tigers 8-6, Macon went to the halftime locker room leading 24-10. “They were even better on defense than they look on film,” Shultz said. “I think they kind of shell-shocked us right out of the gate, pretty much for the entire first half.”
Scotland County came out in the second half much better prepared for the Macon assault and actually went on a little run to start the half. Whitaker’s lay-in pulled the Lady Tigers within nine at 29-20 with 4:15 to play in the third quarter. But Scotland County would get no closer as the Tigerettes re-grouped and outscored them 16-13 in the quarter.
Scotland County managed to outscore Macon 10-9 in the final quarter, but it wasn’t enough and the Lady Tigers had to settle for second place with a 49-33 loss against an outstanding Tigerette squad. Macon’s Tierra Wood led all scorers with 12, while Kate Hawkins and Miller scored 11 apiece. Feeney and Whitaker tallied 8 points apiece.
“That’s a really, really good team and that’s the kind of competition we want to play to get us ready for districts,” Shultz said. “We cut it to nine twice, but they’re pretty good and they capitalized on our mistakes. We missed too many layups and free throws down the stretch to get back into it and have a shot at the end.”
The Lady Tigers will take their show on the road to Westran on Tuesday night and then host Salisbury on Friday night. Both matchups are conference games.