NEODESHA — The Girard Lady Trojans used their experience and poise to put away the Caney Valley Lady Bullpups in the championship game of the Wilson County Classic Friday night in Neodesha.
The Bullpups proved to be deadly from downtown, going 9-for-12 in the contest, but Girard was able to win their second consecutive tournament title by relying on their senior leadership and second-half pressure defense. A 9-0 run near the end of the third quarter for the Trojans proved to be the difference in the contest, as they were able to turn a 26-21 deficit into a 30-26 lead, an advantage they would not relinquish the rest of the way.
“What a great championship game,” Girard head coach Brad Herlocker said. “Caney Valley played a great game, and we were fortunate to come out with the win. We needed a good test and they gave us all we wanted.”
Girard had some trouble with the pressure from Caney Valley’s defense early in the contest, as two quick turnovers gave the 9-1, seventh-ranked in 3A Bullpups extra possessions with which to take an early lead.
Though they had those extra chances, shots were not falling for Caney, and it was Girard’s Sydnee Crain who got the scoring started, giving the Trojans a 2-0 lead with a put back off a missed shot.
The Bullpups, who came into the game shooting nearly 50 percent from the perimeter on the season, rode the hot hand of Kolbi McIntosh to a quick lead on three made 3-pointers for the senior guard.
A basket by Ashley Ray stopped a 6-0 run by Caney midway through the quarter and cut her team’s deficit to 9-4.
Two free throws by Jacey Murphy made it 9-6 in favor of the Bullpups entering the second quarter.
A jumper by Calea Augustin made it 9-8 Caney early in the second, and Girard’s defense started to force Bullpup turnovers as well.
The Trojans took advantage of those turnovers by converting on the offensive end. Ray got a put-back bucket to give her team the lead back at 12-11, which capped a 7-2 run for Girard.
A layup by Crain extended the lead to 14-11, but Caney’s ability to hit 3-pointers quickly gave them the lead back at 17-14. The Bullpups were 5-for-7 from downtown in the first half.
A Ray free throw tied the game at 17-all with 2:20 go in the half, but a three-point trip on the next possession put Caney up 20-17.
Murphy was able to knock down a jumper to get the Trojans back to within one, 20-19, as both teams headed to the dressing room.
Another 3-pointer from Caney’s Kennedy Nunneley started the third quarter and helped to extend the Bullpup lead to 23-19.
Ray had a strong take to the hoop for two, but her score was immediately covered up with another three for Nunneley to put the score at 26-21 early in the second half.
The senior leadership of the Trojans would not let them wilt, however. Crain was able to convert a fast-break basket, and Ray scored another two points off a nice inside lob from Augustin to get the score back to 26-25.
A free throw from Hanson tied the ball game, but a rebound and put back by Lauren Franklin off Hanson’s missed second free throw gave the Trojans the 28-26 lead.
Girard turned up the pressure on defense, forcing turnovers on three consecutive possessions. The play of the Trojan guards in the defensive backcourt helped to limit the looks for the Bullpups offensively, stalling their offense.
A Crain floater extended Girard to a 30-26 advantage, and it was 32-28 entering the final quarter.
The game came down to Caney having to foul late to extend the game, but the Trojans who were 11-for-23 from the charity stripe in the game, made enough shots to keep the Bullpups at bay. Two late 3-pointers for Caney Valley made the game close, but Girard came away with the trophy with a 41-38 victory.
“We have to do a better job at the free-throw line finishing games,” Coach Herlocker said. “At the end of the day, the girls played well enough defensively and made enough plays to win the game. It does not get any easier from here as we get into league play.”
Crain led the Trojans with 12 points.
Ray had 11 point for Girard, and Augustin added eight more.
Girard has won the Wilson County Classic six times in the past 10 years.
TROJAN BOYS COMPLETE THE SWEEP AS CHAMPIONS
The Girard boys' basketball team used a hot night shooting to take down the previously unbeaten Yates Center Wildcats 70-62 in the championship game of the Wilson County Classic Friday night in Neodesha.
Though they found themselves down early, thanks to a quick start by the Wildcats from behind the arc, Girard showed enough experience and athleticism to close the gap and then push the pace offensively, getting to the rim consistently throughout the contest, making Yates Center pay for overplaying defensively. A big run in each the second and third quarters helped push the Trojans as much as a 21-point lead in the contest, though the Wildcats made it close with a furious rally of their own, which fell just short to take down the defending champions.
Girard got off to a quick 4-0 lead in their matchup against Yates Center, but the advantage was short lived, as the Wildcats banged home three 3-point shots in as many trips to take the 9-4 lead.
Strong takes by Eric Wilson on back to back possessions tied the ballgame at 12-all just over halfway through the quarter. A jumper by Dalton Lindbloom gave Girard the lead at 14-12 just a short time later.
Back-to-back 3-pointers had Yates Center back up 18-16.
Girard answered right back again from long range, earning a 19-18 advantage entering the second quarter.
After Yates Center retook the lead, Jordan Hopson put Girard right back out in front with a strong take to the hoop that earned a foul, though he could not convert the free throw.
Evan Troike momentarily took over for the Trojan offense, as he hit a layup on one possession, found Caleb Muia for a layup on the next and earned the hoop and the harm on the subsequent trip to help push Girard’s advantage to 29-24 midway through the quarter.
That lead ballooned to 40-27 before the half thanks to layups by Lindbloom and Troike, who also knocked down a pair a free throws following a strong take to the basket.
Yates Center came out of the locker room on fire from downtown, making back-to-back triples to cut Girard’s lead to just 40-33 less than a minute into the second half.
However, there was no panic in the Trojans, as baskets from Ethan Goff, Wilson and Muia extended Girard back out to a 50-36 advantage.
Girard continued to push the pace offensively, penetrating into the lane at every opportunity and finding success in knocking down shots from close range all evening.
Fisher had a strong finish against Yates Center's 6-foot-11-inch center, Jon Barnes, to make it 56-40, as Girard was in the midst of a 10-3 run.
Muia hit a bucket and converted the free throw on the harm to make it 59-44 heading into the fourth quarter.
Back-to-back baskets by Fisher gave Girard a 19-point lead in the contest, as the Trojans were shooting better than 80 percent from the floor through three quarters.
The lead was 56-40 midway through the quarter and Girard looked well on their way to their second consecutive tournament championship, but the Wildcats had other plans.
The stagnant offense finally came to life for Yates Center, and they turned up the pressure defensively, denying the Trojans the ability to salt away the game by running clock by forcing turnovers.
What had been at one time a 21-point lead in the quarter was whittled down to six points at 68-62 with one minute to go, as Yates Center went on an 18-5 run over a four-minute span.
It was too little too late for the Wildcats, as Wilson knocked down two key free throws for the Trojans to send Girard home with the win.
Wilson led a host of Trojans in double figures with 22 points in the ballgame.
Fisher had 14 points for Girard, with Troike and Muia each scoring 11.