Pilot Grove boys come up short in semifinals against top-seeded Sturgeon

Leading up to Saturday's championship in the 84th annual New Franklin Invitational Tournament, no two teams have won more titles than the New Franklin Lady Bulldogs and Sturgeon Lady Bulldogs.
While combining for 29 titles since the tournament's inception back in 1929 (no tournament in 1942), the New Franklin girls stand as the winningest team in the history of the tournament with 22 titles. However for the last-three years, the Sturgeon Lady Bulldogs have defeated New Franklin in the championship and will go for a fourth straight on Saturday starting at 4 p.m.
As for the Sturgeon boys, they also have history on its side having won the last-three titles and will take on the Tipton Cardinals in the championship Saturday at 5:30.
In games last night, the Sturgeon girls defeated Tipton 60-25 while the Sturgeon boys prevailed over Pilot Grove in a game closer than the final score 60-50. The New Franklin Lady Bulldogs also toppled Sweet Springs 43-26 while the Tipton boys turned back Sweet Springs 60-41.
Tournament action will continue tonight in the consolation semifinals, with the Fayette girls playing Westran at 4:30 p.m., followed by the Jamestown boys versus Fayette at 6, Jamestown girls versus Pilot Grove at 7:30 and Westran boys versus Fayette at 9.
While the loss dropped Pilot Grove to 9-2 on the season, head coach Rick Grunden said he knew they would have challenge on their hands against Sturgeon.
"They are quick, they shoot well, and they play stellar defense," Grunden said. "There were times in the game when we matched their play. However, we didn't take good enough care of the ball and we lacked intensity at times. January is the month where we find out what we are made of. Tonight we found out a lot about ourselves. As disappointed as we may be, tomorrow we will get back to work. Third place in the tournament is in sight. You lose, you learn, you move on."
Despite losing by 10, the Tigers had their chances against Sturgeon while leading by three (14-11) after first period's end. Pilot Grove also led the Bulldogs by one at 19-18 at the 3:31 mark in the second quarter after junior Colton Glenn hit 1 of 2 foul shots.
But what happened after that is anybodys guess as Sturgeon came back and reeled off seven straight points over a three minute span to lead at the half by a score of 25-19.
Although the Bulldogs held a 14-5 advantage in the second period, they also closed out the final two minutes in the third quarter with a 7-0 run to extend their lead to eight at 45-37.
However up until the 7-0 run by Sturgeon, Pilot Grove had the lead down to one at 38-37 with 1:55 left in the third after a three by sophomore Jake Leverton.
The Tigers never got any closer than five points for the rest of the ballgame as Sturgeon came out and outscored Pilot Grove 15-13 in the final period for the victory.
Lorenzo Chisholm had 18 points and Brayden Kelly 17 for Sturgeon.
For Pilot Grove, Mason Schlotzhauer tossed in 21 while Jake Leverton added nine, Kendall Kraus and Colton Glenn six each and Adam Newell and Dylan Twenter each with two.
As for the New Franklin Lady Bulldogs, they took a different approach against Sweet Springs while leading the Greyhounds from start to finish.
Of course it didn't hurt that junior Aly Hundley had the hot hand early for the Lady Bulldogs with 15 of the team's 25 points in the first half.
Meanwhile, after taking a 11-4 lead at the end of the first quarter, New Franklin came back and extended its lead to 15 at the half by outscoring Sweet Springs 14-6 to lead 25-10.
The second half was a carbon copy of the first-two periods as New Franklin put it on cruise by outscoring the Lady Greyhounds 18-16 to win the game by 17.
New Franklin coach Chris McGowan said this was a nice win for the girls.
"We played a very competitive Sweet Springs team," McGowan said. "We did a nice job defensively for most of the night and caused some turnovers that certainly helped us secure the win. Aly really shot the ball well early in the game to help us get a lead, and then we did enough to hold on for the victory."
To go along with her game-high 15 points, Hundley also had six steals, three assists and two rebounds in the game.
Jasmyne Boggs, meanwhile, finished the game with 11 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two assists while Derian Dodson added seven points, eight rebounds, three steals and two assists, Madi Lyons with four points, seven steals, three assists and one rebound, Aislinn Himmelberg with four points, four steals, two rebounds and two assists and Sara Montgomery with two points and four rebounds.
The Lady Bulldogs, 9-1 on the season, also finished the game hitting 19 of 56 shots from the field for 34 percent and 2 of 6 from the foul line for 33 percent.
For Sweet Springs, Nicole Bright poured in seven points.
As for the Sturgeon girls, they led Tipton 33-19 at the half and then outscored the Lady Cardinals 27-6 in the second half for the victory.
Molly Gregory had 16 points and Kylee Foster 15 for Sturgeon. Angela Petree had the team-high for Tipton with six points.
Meanwhile, in the final game last night, Tipton outscored Sweet Springs in each of the four quarters of play and led 20-13 at the half and 41-24 after three.
Ethan Koechner had 17 points and Dylan Cooper 13 for Tipton.
For Sweet Springs, Jeffery Hall and Jacob Schowengerdt each had 10.