Marshfield let several leads slip away Monday night and fell 50-48 to the hosts in an opening-round game of the Ash Grove Lady Pirate Classic.
Senior Dani Brewer drove the lane for a bucket that pushed the Lady Jays to three with two minutes to go, but rather than hold the ball and milk the clock after a missed 3-pointer by Ash Grove senior Kennedi Climer, Marshfield pulled the trigger on two looks. The second was blocked by sophomore forward Khloe Moad and led to an and-1 converted by Riley Hammons that tied the game at 55 with 1:25 remaining.
Ash Grove forced a tie-up and took advantage of the possession arrow with another old-fashioned 3-pointer, this time courtesy of Climer, making it 58-55 with a minute to go. Marshfield committed another turnover, then fouled to send Climer to the line, where she split her free throws.
Marshfield sophomore Kori Cromer restored some hope and knocked down a trey with eight seconds left to make it a one-point contest. Climer was sent back to the charity stripe with 2.8 ticks remaining and made her first free throw, but despite rebounding her miss that followed, the Lady Jays were unable to get off a potential game-winning shot before time expired.
In retrospect, the decision to shoot with the three-point lead was a critical error, but far from the only one down the stretch for Marshfield.
“I think there’s a lot of teaching moments there,” Lady Jays head coach Katie Pritchard said. “Was that probably a pivotal moment for us? Absolutely, but we were still in the game, had a chance and we still didn’t make the right plays as basketball IQ goes.”
Marshfield watched the largest of its advantages dissipate midway through the contest. The visitors capitalized on errors to help go ahead 26-17 with 1:33 before intermission, but Ash Grove was aided by a needless foul with two-tenths of a second left in the second quarter that resulted in free throws, and a bucket by Emma Eagleburger on the first possession of the second half capped off the Lady Pirates’ 9-0 run that tied it once again.
Pritchard expressed hope of something to be gained from the disappointing defeat to a Class 2 side. “I told the girls this is a really big loss for us if we don’t learn from it and get better at knowing the game of basketball,” she said. “If we learn from it and take it with us, we can find some kind of positive in tonight.
“But it is a tough one to swallow, for sure.”
Brewer led Marshfield (1-1) with a team-high 17 points. She was joined in double figures by Alliyah Joiner and Addison Crider, who each had 12, as well as Cromer, who ended with 11.
Climer and Moad carried the scoring load for Ash Grove (2-0) with 18 and 16 points, respectively, in the 4-5 matchup.
Strafford 95, Pierce City 20
Following a difficult win on opening night over Blue Eye, top-seeded Strafford coasted in Monday’s first game that kicked off the tournament.
“Each game is a different challenge, and I thought our girls were really focused and ready to go tonight,” Strafford head coach Dustin Larsen said.
In the first and third quarters alone, the Lady Indians outscored 63-7. Larsen pulled almost all of his starters with roughly 10 minutes still to play, allowing 10 players all together to get into the scoring column.
“Everyone is putting in hard work, and every night you’re trying to get in as many as you can,” Larsen said. “In an opening-round game, it’s always a nice thing to be able to do.”
Mica Chadwell was one of several, including fellow senior Taylor Dormann, who had to make the abrupt transition from volleyball into hoops season, but the two combined for 35 points in the win, including a game-high 18 from Chadwell.
“Coach Larsen and the team did a great job of getting me back into the basketball mindset,” Chadwell said. “We got our first-game jitters out of the way [against Blue Eye] and that was our real team right there tonight.”
The leading scorers got into cheerleader mode for their teammates with the result decided prematurely.
“We have 14 girls on our team and we’re all pretty much sisters,” Chadwell said. “We’re like, ‘That’s our little sister getting a steal and a layup or a block over there.’ It’s just a family thing, and we’re all having fun whenever we’re on the bench. It doesn’t matter who’s in the game — we all root for each other.”
Sophomore Mattie Walker added 15 points for Strafford, who advance to meet Ash Grove Thursday at 6 p.m. in the semifinals. Marshfield meets Pierce City in a consolation game Friday at 6 p.m.
The Lady Pirate Classic concludes Saturday, beginning with the seventh-place game at 10 a.m.