The unbeaten Pilot Grove girls and the ever so tough New Franklin boys punched its ticket to the championship in the 90th annual New Franklin Invitational Tournament Thursday night with impressive wins.
While the Lady Tigers wound up winning by 10 (57-47) against Fayette, a strong second quarter and an even better third quarter proved to be the difference. As for the New Franklin boys, who gave up almost 2 inches at every position against Westran, this game came down to a 7-0 run midway through the fourth quarter. Luckily for the Bulldogs, they were on the receiving end of that 7-0 run for a 42-35 victory.
In other games on Thursday, No. 1 Fayette boys defeated Community R-6 62-46 while top-seeded Community R-6 girls led Sturgeon from start to finish for a 51-27 victory.
Tournament action will continue tonight, with the Westran girls playing Prairie Home in the seventh place game at the old gym starting at 6 p.m. Also, at 6, the New Franklin girls will take on Sweet Springs in the consolation finals. Meanwhile, on the boys side of the bracket, the Prairie Home boys will play Sweet Springs in the seventh place game at 7:30 p.m. in the old gym. In the new gym at 7:30, Pilot Grove will face off against Sturgeon in the new gym for fifth place.
On Saturday, the Fayette girls will battle Sturgeon in the third place game at 11:30 a.m., followed by the Community R-6 boys versus Westran for third place at 1 p.m., Pilot Grove girls versus Community R-6 in the championship game at 2:30 p.m. and Fayette boys versus New Franklin for the title at 4.
Pilot Grove girls basketball coach Linda Scott said the difference in the game against Fayette is that the Lady Tigers played so physical.
“This was a piece of our game that has been missing this season,” Scott said. “We played so hard at a high speed.  Everyone did their part.  Natalie Rentel had a super game for us.  She was a force on both ends of the floor.  Melanie Wolfe was a force on the inside and on the defensive end of the floor. She plays so physical.  Chloe Schlotzhauer had foul problems early but came back super strong in the second half.   Emily Schupp had a super night. Emily upped her game speed tonight, that placed her at a super level of play.  Emily does so much on the defensive end of the court.  Our best game of the season that moves us to 10-0.  These kids are just beginning to understand our game plan for the season.  We have a super battle on our hands Saturday, but every game makes up better.  I’m so happy and proud of these Lady Tigers.”
While Community R-6 are sure to pose a different problem for Pilot Grove, Scott had to like what she saw in the first half anyway as the Lady Tigers dominated on both ends of the floor to lead by 10 (31-21) at the break.
However the first quarter was anything but a blowout as Pilot Grove led Fayette by just two in what was becoming the Emily Schupp show for the Lady Tigers and Abbey Conrow show for Fayette. Schupp had nine of the team’s 15 points in the first quarter and finish the half with 15 of the team’s 31 points. As for Conrow, the junior guard had the first nine points for the Lady Falcons in the opening period and finished with 10 in the first half.
With the Lady Tigers running at every opportunity down the floor, Fayette seemed to struggle with that aspect of the game in the second quarter with only eight points and seven turnovers. Pilot Grove on the other hand put up 16 points in the period, which included a 10-0 run during a two minute stretch to go from trailing 18-15 to leading 25-18.
Pilot Grove never looked back from that point on in the ballgame while taking a 31-21 lead into the half and then matching Fayette with 26 points in the final two periods.
The Lady Tigers also held their biggest lead of the ballgame in the third quarter up by 15 on two different occasions at 44-29 and 48-33.
Schupp also picked up her 29th point of the game at the 1:32 mark in the fourth to extend the lead to 57-45. But even then Pilot Grove had a few tense moments as Fayette went from trailing by 15 to cut the lead down to 10.
Pilot Grove held a 17-12 advantage in the third while Fayette outscored the Lady Tigers 14-9 in the fourth.
Schupp wound up with a double-double in the game for Pilot Grove with 29 points and 18 rebounds. She also had four assists and four steals.
Melanie Wolfe finished the game with 10 points, six rebounds and two assists while Natalie Rentel added eight points and eight rebounds. Chloe Schlotzhauer with five points, five rebounds, four assists and one steal, Reagan McFatrich four points, four assists, three rebounds and one steal and Grace Phillips one point, four assists, three steals and two rebounds.
For Fayette, Conrow finished the game with 22 points.
As for the New Franklin boys, they kept the game low scoring against Westran while working for just one shot each trip down the floor.
It worked as the Bulldogs led 10-7 after first period’s end and 22-15 at the break, which included a 7-0 run late in the second quarter to turn a two point deficit at 13-11 into a five point lead at 18-13 with 2:32 left.
New Franklin coach Ross Dobson said he knew this was going to be a tough game for the Bulldogs and that they were going to win the game on the defensive end. “I thought that’s what we exactly did,” Dobson said. “Anytime we hold a team under 40 points, you can’t complain. I am very proud of these boys and the effort they gave for one another against a well coached Westran team. We have accomplished one of our goals and that was to make it to our tournament championship. Now we just need to finish off the tournament on the right note.”
Starting 0 for 7 from the field to start the second half wasn’t exactly what Coach Dobson had in mind. But even then the Hornets could never take the lead against New Franklin while trailing by two on two different occasions at 26-24 and 28-26.
Westran also outscored New Franklin 11-8 in the third to make it a four point ballgame at 30-26.
The Bulldogs also had a slow start in the final period while missing their first six shots, which allowed Westran to cut the lead to one at 30-29 with 6:04 left. Meanwhile, after Westran tied the game at 32-all with 4:34 remaining, New Franklin came back with a 7-0 run on three free throws by Jackson dowson and baskets by Gavin Bishop to make it 39-32.
Westran didn’t go down without a fight, though. Junior Treyton Black hit a three to cut the lead to four at 39-35 with 37 seconds left. However it was all New Franklin after that with a free throw by Tyler Perkins and a basket by dowson to seal the victory.
Bishop finished the game with 19 points to lead all scorers for New Franklin, who improved to 9-2 overall. Carter Bailey tossed in eight while dowson added seven, Perkins five and Tre’ Cowans with four.
For Westran, David Dale had 16 points, Ben Miller seven and Seth Berry with six.
In other games, Natalie Thomas had 21 points and Dalaney Bowers 12 to lead the Community girls past Sturgeon.
Emma Bright and Jahna Burris each had 10 points for Sturgeon, who trailed 27-12 at the half and 39-20 after three quarters of play.
As for the Fayette boys, they trailed Community R-6 9-8 after first period’s end but rallied back with a 54-37 advantage for the rest of the game.
Kyle Schleeter had 21 points to pace all scorers for Fayette while Eric Hombs led Community R-6 with 17 points.