Tough schedule helps fourth-seeded Russellville to win against Tipton

RUSSELLVILLE, Mo. — The Russellville Lady Indians didn’t put much stock into being the No. 4 seed.

To them, it was merely a reflection of the caliber of teams they’ve played this season. And now, that tough regular-season schedule is paying off.

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Josh Hall reports

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Russellville will try to earn its second straight district title after rallying to claim a 64-59 win against top-seeded Tipton in a Class 2 District 8 semifinal game Wednesday night.

“We’re a four-seed because our record wasn’t very good, but we played a very tough schedule to prepare us for this moment,” Russellville coach David Volkart said. “We knew what we were working towards the whole year and tonight that tough schedule paid off for us.”

The Lady Indians (14-13) will take on third-seeded New Bloomfield, a 49-45 winner against No. 2 Cole Camp on Wednesday, in the championship game at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

A.J. Grellner scored a game-high 18 points to lead four players in double figures for Russellville, which put an end to Tipton’s 13-game winning streak.

“It’s really exciting,” said Grellner, who added a game-high 10 rebounds. “It’s even more exciting knowing it took the whole team to get it done. It was a total team effort.”

Hannah Matthews scored 16 points, while Hannah Morrow added 14 and Justice Miller chipped in with 12 to lead the Lady Indians, who were 18-of-32 from the field and 7-of-17 from beyond the arc.

“I just can’t say enough about my kids,” Volkart said. “I only had eight kids tonight, and every single one of them contributed to the game plan and did their part to the best of their ability. As a coach, that’s all you could ask for — I couldn’t be more pleased.”

The Lady Indians trailed by as many as 12 late in the second quarter but retook control midway through the third and didn’t trail the rest of the way.

Miller sank two free throws to give the Lady Indians a 63-59 lead with 20 seconds remaining in the fourth and Grellner grabbed the rebound after a missed 3-pointer by Tipton to seal it.

“I knew they were a good closing team,” Tipton coach Jason Culpepper said. “I watched them close out Stover two nights ago. If they had the lead going into the fourth quarter, they’re a very tough team to get back from because they hold the ball so well and shoot free throws so well.”

Russellville was 20-of-31 from the charity stripe — including 5-of-8 in the fourth quarter — to hold off Tipton.

The Lady Cardinals (21-6) tied the game twice in the final period, but never scored the go-ahead bucket.

“Every time we tied it up there in the fourth quarter, they responded within 15 seconds and got the lead back,” Culpepper said. “We just never really could get that stop after we would score.”

Caroline Combs led four Tipton players in double figures with 16 points. Destiny Dowell finished with 13, Ashton Pace added 12, and Paige Barker chipped in with 10 to help pace the Lady Cardinals, who were 22-of-52 from the field, 3-of-10 from 3-point range, and 12-of-17 from the free-throw line.

The Lady Indians led Tipton 15-10 with 55 seconds left in the first quarter, but the Lady Cardinals went on a 13-0 run to take a 23-15 lead with 4:55 left in the second quarter.

Russellville cut its deficit to four, but Dowell converted on a three-point play and the Lady Indians’ bench was whistled for a technical foul to keep the momentum on Tipton’s side.

The Lady Cardinals had a 31-19 lead — their biggest of the night — with 2:37 left in the second quarter, but Russellville closed out the quarter on a 9-4 run, still trailing 35-29 at halftime.

“That was huge going into halftime — the momentum had kind of went our way a little bit,” Volkart said. “At halftime we said, ‘We’re going to battle, we’re not going to lay down, we’re not going to quit.’”

A free-throw by Grellner gave Russellville a 41-40 lead with 4:24 left in the third and the Lady Indians didn’t let the momentum slip away.

“We battled,” Volkart said. “My kids refused to lose. The effort was tremendous, and our focus down the stretch was really what lifted us over the top.

“The kids wanted it really bad and that took us to the next level.”

Greller was 8-of-9 from the line in the third, while Matthews added seven points to give Russellville a 48-44 edge entering the fourth quarter.

“I wasn’t going to accept losing,” Grellner said. “I was going to do whatever it took to win.”

Grellner and the Lady Wildcats will look to keep the momentum going against New Bloomfield — a team Russellville beat 35-31 on Feb. 2.

“We’ve got to play defense, we’ve got to do a better job on the defensive boards,” Volkart said. “One thing we talk about all the time is, ‘Work hard.’ That’s what my kids did today and I’m super proud.”

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