Chamois takes on Mercer in Final Four

For updates from the Final Four, follow Adam Stillman on Twitter at @adamstillman87.

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The Chamois Lady Pirates and Mercer Lady Cardinals will be stepping into rarified air tonight.

There will be two NCAA Division I signees on the court in a Class 1 game — Chamois’ Miranda Brandt and Mercer’s Sierra Michaelis — when the teams meet for their semifinal at 8:20 p.m. today at the Hearnes Center in Columbia.

Brandt will suit up for Southern Illinois-Edwardsville next season, while Michaelis will bring her talents to Missouri. They’ll do battle tonight for a chance to play in Saturday’s championship game.

“I told the girls (Tuesday), ‘What better way to finish out a season than with two girls like Miranda and Sierra on the floor at the same time?’” Chamois head coach Marty Gerloff said. “That’s the way it’s supposed to end. It’s not our last game, but it’s our second-to-last game. I think it’s a great thing that they’re meeting. They’re both very good Division I basketball players. It will be a fun game to watch. I really think it will be a lot of fun to see those two players play together.”

Michaelis is a do-it-all guard for Mercer. She closed out the regular season with career averages of 31.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.7 steals and 5.2 assists. With a whopping 3,647 career points, Michaelis is just 77 points from tying the all-time Missouri scoring mark of 3,724 points set by Miller’s Hannah Wilkerson from 2007-10.

“I’ve seen her play twice,” Gerloff said of Michaelis. “I’ve got a couple game tapes on them, too. She’s very good. A 5-foot-11 point guard, fairly strong, very good ballhandling skills, she can go left or right, shoot off the dribble. She’s a complete player.

“We’re going to have to have a lot of help- defense with her. Maybe some double teams and stuff to stop her. She’s a heck of a player.”

The rest of the Mercer team isn’t too shabby, evidenced by its 28-1 record and No. 2 state ranking. The lone loss was a 56-54 decision to Class 3 Penney on Dec. 28. Since then the Lady Cardinals have won 21 straight games. Success is no stranger to Mercer, either, as the Lady Cardinals completed undefeated regular seasons the previous three years only to lose in the sectional round each time.

“That Courtney Owens is the coach’s daughter,” Gerloff said of the Central Methodist recruit who scores 16 points per game. “She’s a very good outside shooter. She’s 5-11, she can handle it pretty well.

“It’s a good matchup. I’ve got a couple other 5-11 girls, too. Size-wise we match up about right. Speed and quickness, about right. We both play similar defenses and we both have Division I players. It’s going to be quite the matchup.”

Chamois, sitting at 22-7 and eighth in the state, relies on Brandt’s production. The 5-11 forward averages around 19.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per contest.

The other four starters — Alyssa Bullock, Alison Mehmert, Paige Nolte and Emily Gilbert — round out a lineup ready to compete for a title.

“We’ve had big games this season,” Gerloff said. “The Hermann Tournament championship, stuff like that where we were very focused. But I’ve never seen them this focused. They’re not happy with just getting to the Final Four. They’re wanting to win it.

“They’ve worked hard before, but now they’ve stepped it up a notch. They’re wanting to go out with a bang.”

Top-ranked Walnut Grove (28-2) meets seventh-ranked Chadwick (25-5) in the other semifinal at 6:40 p.m. today at the Hearnes Center.

“I think Class 1 and 2 and 3, there’s a lot of similarities,” Gerloff said. “You could throw them all three together and anybody could win. Class 1 has some really good teams in it.”

The Class 1 title game is set for 8:40 p.m. Saturday, while the third-place game would be at 8:20 p.m. Friday.

Both of those games are scheduled to be played at Mizzou Arena.

“There’s no other team in the world I’d want to coach,” Gerloff said. “It wouldn’t matter if it was the NBA, college, it would not matter. These girls work so hard for me. They’re so devoted to their team.”

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For updates from the Final Four, follow Adam Stillman on Twitter at @adamstillman87.

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