The Bunceton Lady Dragons basketball team had the height while the Jamestown Lady Eagles had the speed and quickness going into Saturday's championship game in the CCAA Tournament at Bunceton.
While you knew something had to give in a battle of No. 1 versus No. 3, Bunceton's height proved to the difference down the stretch against a much smaller Jamestown team in a 66-64 victory.
As for the championship on the boys side of the bracket, No. 1 Otterville defeated No. 2 Jamestown 54-41.
In other trophy games on Saturday, the Prairie Home boys avenged an earlier loss by beating Bunceton 81-49 in the third-place game while the Otterville girls rallied from six down in the fourth quarter to beat Prairie Home for third place 43-42. Meanwhile, in the consolation games, the Higbee boys and girls turned back Malta Bend by the scores of 57-28 and 55-35, respectively.
While the win improved Bunceton's record to 15-1 on the season, head coach Mike Arnold said it was a great Class 1 high school basketball game.
"The crowd was into it and the players were into it," Arnold said. "It was just a great atmosphere for a championship game. I had the easy job. The kids were the ones that had the tough job. But to be honest I thought Jamestown was shooting three free throws at the end of the game. But that's a tough call to make. We shouldn't have even been in that position. 'I was like don't foul her'."
The no call towards the end of the ballgame that Coach Arnold is referring to is the shot by a Lady Eagle as time was running out behind the three-point arc. While Arnold admits that he thought Jamestown was going to the line to shoot three free throws, the referee instead ruled only that the shot would count had it gone in.
Nonetheless, the game was everything it was made out to be and more between two evenly matched teams.
While the Lady Dragons have four players listed at 5'-9" or better, Jamestown's tallest player stands at only 5'-4".
That proved to be the difference early on as Bunceton worked its magic inside to lead Jamestown by five (17-12) after first period's end. The Lady Dragons also dominated the second quarter while leading Jamestown by as much as seven on five different occasions. But even while Bunceton outscored Jamestown 15-13 in the second, you just had a sense that the Lady Eagles were going to make a comeback at some point in the ballgame even though they trailed 32-25 at the break.
"The first half I would like to congratulate Jamestown," Arnold said. "They are a great team and E.H. does a great job. Those girls never quit and they are 32 minutes up in your grill. We had the height advantage and we used that in the first half. Then, in the second half, we hit a wall but I thought we played through it. I was very proud of the kids."
Page 2 of 4 - Of course it didn't look good for Jamestown in the third quarter after Bunceton came out and reeled off eight straight points to push the lead to 14 at 42-28 with 5:01 left. However from the 3:48 mark on for the rest of the period, the Lady Eagles rallied back and outscored Bunceton 9-2 to cut the lead to five at 46-41.
Jamestown also held a 16-14 advantage in the third period.
With only eight minutes remaining to make up for the five-point deficit, the Lady Eagles started to make their move around the four minute mark by cutting the lead to four at 58-54. Then, after trading baskets for the next-two minutes, Jamestown faced an even bigger task while trailing 65-58 with 1:59 remaining.
However the game was far from being over at that point. After junior Rachel Emde hit 1 of 2 shots to give the Lady Dragons the lead at 66-60 with 1:15 left, Jamestown's Alli Muri came back and buried a three to cut the lead to three at 66-63. Then, after two missed free throws by Bunceton, sophomore Stephanie Birkmann hit 1 of 2 shots from the line to make it a two-point game at 66-64.
The Lady Dragons, meanwhile, had a chance to ice the game in the final seconds but missed on two free throws. Then, with the ball and less than 10 seconds left on the clock, Jamestown came down with one final shot that missed its mark behind the three-point arc.
While Jamestown outscored Bunceton 41-34 in the second half, Arnold said he was very concerned in the fourth quarter. "I just put the ball in Erica's and Rachel's hands," Arnold said. "I was very glad that we won of course, but we had to work for it because Jamestown didn't let up. I told the girls when I first got here that the thing that is going to hurt them is their mental toughness and I think tonight we got mentally tough."
Rachel Emde finished the game with a double-double for Bunceton with 28 points and 15 rebounds. She also had five assists.
Maddy Berwanger, meanwhile, finished the game with 13 points, six rebounds and one assist while Erica Kahle added nine points, five assists and three rebounds, Sam Brandes with eight points, six assists, four rebounds and one steal, Deanne Emde with four points, 12 rebounds and one assist and Julia Kahle with four points, three rebounds, one steal and one assist.
For Jamestown, Alli Muri had 14, Lexi Muri 13 and Mackenzie Strother with 11.
In the boys championship game, Otterville led Jamestown 24-21 at the half and 37-31 after three quarters of play. Meanwhile, in the final period, Otterville outscored Jamestown 17-10 to win the game by 13.
Ryan Benny had 18 points in the game for Otterville while Justin Halgren added 10, Jacob Gaskell and Devon Rockett each with nine and Elliott Kroeker with six.
Page 3 of 4 - For Jamestown, Isaac Duncan had 11, Trevor Barbour 10 and Alden Rohrbach and Andrew Hardwick each with six.
The girl's third-place game was also close, with Otterville leading 12-9 after first period's end only to have Prairie Home rally back with a 9-4 scoring edge in the second quarter to go up by two (18-16) at the break. Meanwhile, after the Lady Panthers came out in the third quarter and held a 13-11 advantage to push the lead to four at 31-27, Otterville rallied back from a six-point deficit on three different occasions to tie the game at 41-all with 1:37 left in the game.
The Lady Eagles also went on a 8-0 run during that time to go up 41-41 with 24 seconds remaining. Meanwhile, with 13 seconds left, freshman Josie Flood hit 1 of 2 free throws to cut the lead to one at 43-42.
Prairie Home would get no closer as Otterville held on in the final seconds for the victory.
Prairie Home coach Linda Scott said this was by far the teams best game of the season.
"We battled every play of the game, the girls showed so much heart in the game," Scott said. "It showed with the tears in the locker room afterwards. The girls are realizing the effort it takes to play good teams from start to finish of each game. Katlynn Watson had a very good game. Katlynn had 15 points, plus she had some great assists. Katlynn and Kendra had two very nice fast break baskets. It was nice to see the two seniors play well together. Kendra also scored 13 points. Defensively, we did a very nice job on the big girl on the inside. We had 29 defensive boards on the night. That really stopped there inside game. Krista Small lead the team with eight rebounds. Late in the game we allowed their press to upset us. We fought so hard to win but it was a great game for the seniors to remember their last CCAA Tournament game. I am so proud of how far this team has come this season."
Stephanie Oswald led the Lady Eagles with 23 points while Hannah Stone added 10 and Whitney Watring with six.
For Prairie Home, who dropped to 7-11 on the season, Katlynn Watson finished the game with 15 points along with four assists, five rebounds and two steals.
Kendra Stinson poured in 13 points along with two rebounds and two steals while Makayla Zey added nine points, seven rebounds and two steals, Ally Small with two points, six rebounds and two assists, Krista Small with two points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals, Josie Flood with one point and four rebounds, Amber Carmichael with one rebound and Kim Hettinger with one steal.
Prairie Home also finished the game shooting 33 percent from the field and 71 percent from the foul line.
Page 4 of 4 - Although the Lady Panthers felt like they may have given one away against Otterville, the Prairie Home boys left little doubt in the third-place game against Bunceton while leading from start to finish.
While avenging a 15-point loss (61-46) back on December 18th, the Panthers came out Saturday to lead Bunceton 25-14 after one and 48-23 at the half. Meanwhile, after both teams scored 14 points in the third quarter, Prairie Home all but made it official by outscoring the Dragons 19-12 in the final period to win by 32.
Prairie Home coach Jesse Oswald said the boys had a very good start after coming out a couple nights earlier against Otterville and not being ready to play. "We traded baskets for the first-three or four minutes before going on a big run and building a big first-half lead," Oswald said. "The second half we started a little slow and got away from what worked the first half, but after about five minutes we picked things back up again. This was a game that we played very well from start to finish."
Trever Huth had 30 points to lead all scorers for Prairie Home while Sam Distler chipped in 11, Rayce Kendrick nine, Kody Utterback and Jonathan Brandes each with eight, Klay Holliday with seven, Ben Stock with six and Clinton Campbell with two.
For Bunceton, Ashton Campbell had 20 points, three steals, two rebounds and one assist. Kyler Tucker finished the game with 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals while Will Twenter added eight points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal, Aaron Clevenger with six points, five rebounds and three assists, Kyle Held with five rebounds, two assists and one steal and Dylan Custer with two rebounds, one steal and one assist.
In the consolation games, Hope Clark led three players in double figures for the Higbee girls, who led Malta Bend 35-20 at the half and 46-22 after three quarters of play.
Alex Forrester chipped in 14 points while Ashley Berendzen added 11.
For Malta Bend, Abby Gass had 15 points.
Meanwhile, in the boys consolation game, Higbee opened the first half with a 21-16 lead and then outscored Malta Bend 36-12 in the second half for the victory.
Jacob Beal and Caleb Starke each had 12 points while Jeremy Kirkendoll added 10 points. Devon Cook chipped in eight.
For Malta Bend, Larry Edde had 10, Blake Koss seven, Danny Kiehl six and Tyler Jenkins with five.