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Chamois, Walnut Grove to meet for Class 1 crown

Chamois, Walnut Grove to meet for Class 1 crown

March 9th, 2013 in News

Chamois guard Alyssa Bullock splits the Mercer defense as she drives into the paint in the first half of Thursday's Class 1 girls semifinal game at the Hearnes Center.

Photo by Kris Wilson

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

To be the best, you must beat the best.

That's the position the Chamois Lady Pirates find themselves in when they take on the top-ranked team in Class 1 in the state championship game at 8:40 p.m. today at Mizzou Arena.

Walnut Grove (29-2) is the team that has been perched atop the rankings all season long.

"We've always hung under the radar all year, which we were fine with, because of our schedule," Chamois head coach Marty Gerloff said. "I like our situation. We like being the underdogs. We like to accept the challenge.

"If you want to be the best you have to beat the best. That's been our theory all along. You just have to keep going on. This was our goal all along, was to win a state title."

Walnut Grove dropped a 36-35 decision to Eminence in last season's title game on a pair of free throws with 3.2 seconds left. The senior-less team is back and looking to claim the trophy. Walnut Grove is on a 16-game winning streak and is in search of its first state title since 2007.

"They've been there, they've done that," Gerloff said. "They've been in that big game. I think that will be an advantage for them starting off. But also, you get down the stretch of a game or third quarter or second quarter and it's still a close game, that could go the other way on them. They're the ones that are probably favored."

Chamois, meanwhile, is looking for its first state championship in school history in its first trip to the Final Four.

"It's already changed everybody, but to get there and to win a state title, it just changes everybody's lives involved," Gerloff said. "We've had the power plant close and our store close. It's just changed the outlook of our town. One little team has done that.

"It's a very, very big deal. As I told the girls in the locker room (Thursday) night, "You've changed the lives of every little girl in the stands watching. They want to be like you.' It's going to change our basketball program here, no doubt. As long as we keep getting numbers to come out for the team, and now I'm sure we will, it's going to make every little kid work harder."

Both teams reached the championship game courtesy of blowout victories in the semifinals. Eighth-ranked Chamois topped second-ranked Mercer 62-39 and Walnut Grove blasted seventh-ranked Chadwick 66-42.

Heather Harman is the star for Walnut Grove. A junior who has already received interest from NCAA Division I school Southeast Missouri State, as well as a bevy of Division II schools, she averages 19.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Her third-cousin, Lexi Harman, adds 14.8 points and 6.4 rebounds.

"They're a lot smaller than us, they're slightly quicker," Gerloff said. "(Heather's) a very good player. One of the better guards we've seen all year. They've got four girls that can shoot the 3. They're a very good basketball team."

Chamois and Walnut Grove have one common opponent this season: St. Elizabeth. Chamois topped St. Elizabeth 42-31 on Jan. 17, while Walnut Grove beat the Lady Hornets 78-52 in a sectional game Feb. 27.

That doesn't matter now. It will all be decided on the floor tonight.

"It's truly amazing," Gerloff said of playing for a state title. "It's been a dream for a long time. It's been a dream for our girls. It's nice to see that their hard work and my hard work is paying off.

"We're going to play defense, try to be smart on the offensive end, take care of the basketball. My kids have a lot of heart. I'm very, very confident in them. We can be a very, very good basketball team. I think we make it a game, no doubt."

See also: Chamois game to be televised

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