Lady Falcons end Lady Pintos' title streak

Amy Dorge of Blair Oaks tries to put up a shot between the defensive efforts of California teammates Sydney Deeken (33) and Kelsey Roush during Thursday night’s game in Wardsville.

Amy Dorge of Blair Oaks tries to put up a shot between the defensive efforts of California teammates Sydney Deeken (33) and Kelsey Roush during Thursday night’s game in Wardsville. Photo by Shaun Zimmerman.

WARDSVILLE, Mo. — The California Lady Pintos appeared well on their way to a fifth straight Tri-County Conference basketball championship.

The Blair Oaks Lady Falcons then showed them teams ranked No. 2 in the state don’t just roll over and die.

After trailing 25-10 almost 14 minutes into the game, Blair Oaks used a 32-10 run the rest of the way to win its first conference title since 2008, defeating California 42-35 on Thursday night at the Blair Oaks gym.

“It feels pretty darn good, man,” Blair Oaks head coach Leroy Bernskoetter said of winning the league title. “It’s been a few years. It was just a great game. You talk about a tale of two halves.”

It didn’t look like it’d be much of a game early on, as California raced out to a 13-2 lead and an 18-6 advantage after just eight minutes. Kelsey Roush and Mara Caudel scored six points each for the Lady Pintos during that first quarter. As hot of a start as it was for California, head coach Bobby Sangster thought it could have been much worse.

“We had trips where we settled for 3-pointers, we had trips where we had turnovers and we had trips where we didn’t box out,” Sangster said. “That game could have been a lot uglier to start out. But we had great energy and really got after it.”

California continued to take it to Blair Oaks in the second quarter, using a 7-0 run to take the 25-10 lead with 4:25 to go before halftime.

“California’s a good team and it’s a great rivalry that we have,” Bernskoetter said. “We knew they would come out pretty tough. They caught us a little bit on our heels. We just weren’t ready to meet that challenge.

“They did a nice job, but I think as the game went on we just kept saying, ‘It’s just one stop at a time and one score at a time. We’ve got a lot of time left.’ We just didn’t give up. That’s the character of these girls.”

Only five points were scored by either team the rest of the half, but they all came from the Lady Falcons. LeeAnn Polowy hit a jumper with 2:06 to play and nailed a 3-pointer with nine seconds to go to get within 25-15 at halftime.

That’s when Blair Oaks made its move.

Down 27-17, the Lady Falcons scored 11 straight points to take their first lead of the game with 1:04 left in the third period. Polowy scored seven of those 11 points.

Kamryn Koetting hit one of her two free-throw attempts with less than two seconds on the clock to send the game into the final stanza tied at 28.

The final eight minutes pretty much belonged to the Lady Falcons. Amy Dorge knocked down a pair of free throws 22 seconds into the frame to give Blair Oaks a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Polowy hit a huge 3-pointer with 4:22 to go to put Blair Oaks ahead 36-32.

When California got within 36-35 on a bucket from Koetting, it was Polowy again who put the Lady Falcons on her back. She splashed home a jump shot with 1:43 left to go to make the score 38-35.

“LeeAnn just came up with some big shots,” Bernskoetter said.

Sara Jones and Dorge went a perfect 4-for-4 from the foul line down the stretch to secure the victory.

“They missed some shots, they missed some free throws, and we took advantage of it,” Bernskoetter said. “We managed the game well those last few minutes.”

While senior-laden Blair Oaks was at its best with the game on the line, senior-less California was far from it. The Lady Pintos went just 3-for-9 from the charity stripe in the final quarter and shot just 9-for-22 from the line for the game. Blair Oaks was 7-of-8 in the fourth quarter and 11-of-13 overall.

“Give all the credit to Blair Oaks and their coaching staff, for them to come out and respond to that (deficit),” Sangster said. “All the seniors on this team have been fantastic for four years. We don’t have any of those and that showed tonight. When they got down deep and faced adversity, they didn’t panic, they took care of it and they fought back. That’s why they’re conference champions and that’s why they’re the No. 2 team in the state. When things started to roll on us, it got a little harder for us.”

Maybe even more impressive than Blair Oaks’ comeback was the job the Lady Falcons did on California all-stater Sydney Deeken. The junior, who was a first-team selection as a sophomore, was held scoreless on 0-for-9 shooting.

“Amanda Rackers,” Bernskoetter said, simply stating the reason Deeken had a tough night offensively. “We just said, ‘If you can just do that good of a job,’ and she did. It might have taken a little bit away from her offense, but she did a great job. We had good team defense.”

Polowy was the star of the night, pouring in 23 points.

Meleigha Caudel and Roush tied for California’s team high with eight points.

Blair Oaks ends the regular season at 22-2, while California finished up 19-6. The two might meet again soon, as the Lady Falcons and Lady Pintos are seeded No. 1 and 2, respectively, in next week’s Class 3 District 8 Tournament.

“It can happen again next week,” Bernskoetter said. “It’d be on a neutral court. We’ll worry about that when that night comes. Hopefully we’re in that championship game. They’re all going to be tough after this.”

Said Sangster: “It’s scary to think that a week from today, if everything falls the way it’s supposed to in districts, we could see each other again.”

After Thursday’s drama, Round Two might be quite the treat.

Blair Oaks won the JV game 58-34. Chelsi Emerson and Madison Abbott both scored 15 points to lead the Lady Falcons (13-5). Blair Oaks also won the two-quarter freshman game 15-11.

Note: Blair Oaks celebrated Senior Night before the varsity game, honoring its five seniors: Michaella Forck, Darian Werdehausen, Nicole Lueckenhoff, Rackers and Dorge.

photo

During each halftime of the Blair Oaks boys and girls home basketball games, a raffle was held to select one fan to take a chance at hitting a half-court shot to win a cash prize donated by Mid-America Bank. The prize went up $100 in each game where the shot was missed and Thursday’s game was the final one the prize would be offered and the jackpot had risen to $1,800. Mike Lutz of California (left) won the jackpot after he sank his shot. Lutz donated half of his prize back to Blair Oaks. Mid-America Bank then said if Blair Oaks superintendant Jim Jones could hit a halfcourt shot, it would donate another $500. (At right) Jones celebrates after hitting his shot.

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