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By: Corey Stott
QUEEN CITY, Mo.- 2/26/22- It was the game everyone had been talking about for over a week. The Scotland County Lady Tigers were coming in at 22-3 and ranked fifth in Missouri Class 2. The Schuyler County Lady Rams were coming in at 23-3 and ranked eighth in Missouri Class 2.
The two teams had faced each other twice this season. The first meeting was on December 4th in a battle for the Tri-Rivers Classic Tournament championship game. Scotland County won that matchup 40-35. The second meeting was on January 25th in a regular season, conference battle in Memphis. The Lady Tigers also won that game 45-41.
That set the stage for a huge rivalry rematch with all the marbles at stake. The winner would punch their ticket into the state tournament. The loser would go home and get ready for next season. The key question in everyone’s mind: as well as these two teams know each other, could Scotland County beat Schuyler County three times in the same season?
There was a tremendous amount of hype surrounding this game, and both the environment and the game itself lived up to all of it. Both student sections as well as the adult fans were in full throat. For those of us working media jobs courtside, it felt as if two tidal waves of noise coming from opposite direction were crashing together and crushing all of us down at court level. It was exactly the type of atmosphere that we all dream of playing in when it matters most.
The roof nearly blew off the gymnasium with the opening tip. Scotland County controlled the tip, but it was Schuyler County that got on the board first with a MaKinley Aeschliman free throw. A minute later, an Alaynna Whitaker shot from the right block gave the Lady Tigers a 2-1 lead.
In a first quarter that featured high intensity and physical play, the Lady Tigers won the first quarter 11-4. That was largely aided by the fact that Schuyler County missed six of eight free throws in the period.
In the second quarter, the Lady Tigers really cranked up the full-court pressure. The press clearly bothered the Lady Ram ballhandlers and created several turnovers. Scotland County capitalized on these and converted them into points. Scotland County seemed to be handling both the pressure and physicality of the game better throughout the period and outscored Schuyler County 15-6 to lead 26-10 at the half.
For everyone who witnessed the first half in person, it seemed that the Lady Tigers were going to put this one comfortably away and waltz into the sectional game. But alas, the Lady Rams regrouped in the locker room at halftime and came out ready to roll in the second half. They looked like a focused, motivated and determined team. It quickly became clear that this fight was going to go the full 10 rounds.
Schuyler County senior center Kait Hatfield took her team on her shoulders and willed them back into the game. She became a force on the glass and in the paint. Her determination powered the Lady Rams in outscoring the Lady Tigers 17-9 in the third frame, but they still trailed Scotland County 35-27.
The fourth quarter of this game was perhaps the most exciting basketball that had been played to date in this area. Scotland County held the lead throughout the rest of the game, but not without Schuyler County making a serious run at them.
The Lady Rams twice got within five points of the lead. The first time was with 1:37 to play with Hatfield making one of two free throws to make it 43-38 Lady Tigers. The second time was with just 33.4 to play when Hatfield again came up big at the line to make both shots. At that point, Scotland County led it 46-41.
But as determined as Hatfield was to get her team back in it, Hannah Feeney was just as determined to put this game away once and for all. Feeney went four of five at the line in the game’s closing minutes to help secure the 47- 41 victory and the season sweep over the Lady Rams.
Hatfield led all scorers with 18 for Schuyler County. Paige Bishop led Scotland County with 15 points. Feeney scored a dozen, Whitaker had 9, Emiley Dial scored 6 points, Abby Doster chipped in 3, and Aayla Humprey tallied a pair.
The win gave the Lady Tigers their third straight district title. It also propels the team into the state tournament for the chance at a repeat run at the state final four. That journey will continue with the second step being a trip to Hannibal on Wednesday evening for a sectional matchup with Cairo at 6 pm. If the Lady Tigers win that game, they would face the winner of the Salisbury and St. Paul Lutheran of Concordia game in a quarterfinal match on Saturday at noon at Moberly Area Community College.
Tickets for this game are available ONLY on the MSHSAA website and must be purchased in advance. Go to MSHSAA.org and click on the ticket icon. No cash or other payment will be accepted at the door.