The semifinal round of the Class 1 District 9 Tournament was supposed to be simple for top-seeded Pilot Grove girls.
With 18 wins on the season versus a team with 11 wins, the Lady Tigers were supposed to cruise and move on to Saturday’s championship game against the winner of Otterville-Jamestown.
But the game against the Bunceton Lady Dragons was anything but simple as Pilot Grove led by four at the break and six going into the final period.
As it turned out, the Lady Tigers saved their best for last by outscoring Bunceton 13-8 in the final period to pull away for a 37-26 victory.
In the second game, Otterville had a little easier time while leading Jamestown from start to finish to win 48-30.
Pilot Grove and Otterville will now face off for the title on Saturday, Feb. 23 starting at 1 p.m.
In the only meeting between the two teams back on December 8th, the Lady Tigers beat Otterville 45-40 in the Pilot Grove Tiger Classic.
Tournament action will continue on the boys side of the bracket tonight, with No. 1 Chamois playing No. 4 Pilot Grove at 6 p.m. and No. 2 Prairie Home battling No. 3 Jamestown at 7:30.
The winners will advance to the championship game on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Pilot Grove girls coach Linda Scott said she knew coming in this would be a hard physical game.
“Our defense has been our successful event all year,” Scott said. “Today our defense was outstanding.  We held they big scorers to five points and we moved well on defense, rebounded well and had a lot of steals.  But we must finish at the rim off our steals to keep playing this season. This was a total team effort tonight.  Everyone on the floor and on the bench was helping each other by talking  and seeing events together. Our goal from the beginning of the summer was to make it to the district finals.  We play Otterville and they are a great team.  We played them once before but it was a tight game all the way. We hit free throws in the last 20 seconds to win that game.  It will be a battle of two great teams from this area. I thought tonight we played the best team ball of the season. It will take that effort and more to win Saturday.”  
You couldn’t fault either team for effort last night. Aside from the horrendous shooting by both teams, Pilot Grove and Bunceton continued to work hard on both ends despite scoring just a total of 14 points while committing a combined 12 turnovers in the first eight minutes.
The second quarter wasn’t much better as Pilot Grove outscored Bunceton 6-4 to lead at the break 14-10.
While hitting a combined 10 field goals in the first half, the Lady Tigers finally hit double digits in a quarter by outscoring Bunceton 10-8 in the third to extend the lead to 24-18.
However during a stretch in the third period, Pilot Grove hit a cold spell while Bunceton reeled off six straight on back to back threes by Cara Bishop and Madelyn Myers to go up 18-15 with 4:11 left.
Unfortunately for the Lady Dragons, they were unable to sustain the lead as Pilot Grove scored the final nine points of the third quarter to go up by six.
Bunceton never got any closer in the ballgame as Pilot Grove came out and scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to make it 32-18 with 4:10 left. The Lady Dragons got it back to eight at 32-24 thanks to a 6-0 run, but over the final two minutes and 16 seconds, Pilot Grove held a 5-2 advantage for the victory.
Bunceton coach Dustin Ray said rough loss to bring home last night.  
“You hold a great team like Pilot Grove to 37 points and you give yourself a chance to win,” Ray said.  “Both teams played a strong defensive game.  Very proud of the showing these girls had.  This team is only going to improve in the years to come.  Very excited for the future.  We lose a key component with Taylor Burnett graduating, but the rest of the foundation is still there.”
Emily Schupp had her usual night for Pilot Grove with 24 points, eight rebounds, six steals and three steals.
No other player scored in double figures for the Lady Tigers. Chloe Schlotzhauer had six points, 11 rebounds, three steals, one assist and one block shot while Melanie Wofe added five points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block shot, Grace Phillips two points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals, Abby Schupp three rebounds and three steals, Reagan McFatrich two rebounds, one steal and one assist and Natalie Glenn with two rebounds.
Scott said Schlotzhauer had 11 rebounds and three steals to set the tone on defense.  
“Emily Schupp had a great night with 24 points, eight rebounds, six steals  and four assists,” Scott said. “Our team is so unselfish.  The girls really passed the ball well tonight.  Grace Phillips had eight rebounds. She is only five feet tall but went in with the bigs to get rebounds. She also had three steals and six assists.  What a game Grace had for us tonight. She knows her role at point guard and really sets us up for success.  
“Our play was to keep Burnett and Moser from scoring.  Reagan McFatrich and Abby Schupp really did a nice job on Burnett.  Melanie Wolfe did a super job on Moser.  Natalie Glenn came in and did a great job on the defensive end during the first half when we got into foul problems.”
For Bunceton, Myers led all scorers with 11 points along with five rebounds.
Cara Bishop finished the game with eight points, five rebounds, three steals and one assist while Taylor Burnett added five points, two rebounds, two steals and one assist, Taylyn Heilman two points and one rebound, Chloe Moser seven rebounds, two steals and one assist and Maddie Brandes with five rebounds, one steal and one assist.
In the second game, Otterville led Jamestown by just five (7-2) at the end of one but opened it up with a 19-10 scoring edge in the second quarter to go in at the half on top 26-12. The Lady Eagles also won the second half against Jamestown 22-18 for the 18 point win.
Carrie Jo McKinney and Jessie Neal each had 15 points for Otterville while Abby Nichols tossed in 14 points.
Chiane Harlan had 13 points to lead all scorers for Jamestown.
Saturday’s winners will advance to the Class 1 Sectional Tournament at Sturgeon High School on Tuesday, Feb. 26th. The boys will play the first game against District 10 winner out of Community starting at 6 p.m., followed by the girls game at 7:45.