Nine long years. That’s about how long it’s been since the Pilot Grove Lady Tigers basketball team last won a district title.
As the No. 1 seed in the district and a chance to hit the 20 win mark in the season Saturday in the championship game against No. 2 Otterville, the Lady Tigers went about business as usual while leading the Eagles for approximately 25 of the 32 minutes en route to a 54-37 victory.
Pilot Grove, who is now 20-6 on the season, will advance to the sectional round of the state playoffs on Tuesday, Feb. 26th at Sturgeon High School to face Community R-6 starting at 7:45 p.m. Community R-6, 24-2 on the season, beat Canton 63-46 in the championship in the Class 1 District 10 Tournament at Community.
Pilot Grove girls basketball coach Linda Scott said this was the main goal of the team from June 1 to win a district title.
“It’s been nine long years without a championship,” Scott said. “We were able to get in a gym for practice all week without snow and it truly helped us get back on track. The game plan worked well and the kids truly did everything they needed to win this game. This was a total team effort. Most of these girls have a softball district championship, but our two seniors Chloe Schlotzhauer and Aryn Lorenz needed this win to say they won a district title. Winning a district championship is so difficult.”
The Lady Tigers should know, after all its been nine long years.
In addition to outscoring Otterville in three out of the four quarters of play, Pilot Grove also out-rebounded the Eagles 35-24.
However the biggest advantage for the Lady Tigers may have been just 10 feet from the basket as Pilot Grove hit on 15 of 20 shots from the foul line compared to just 5 of 9 for Otterville.
Of course the Lady Tigers may have very well sealed the win elsewhere but hitting 10 of 12 shots from the line in the fourth quarter was the icing on the cake. Senior Emily Schupp hit 11 of 12 shots from the line for the game but was huge in the fourth quarter by going 10 for 10.
“I thought Emily played a very good all-around game,” Scott said. “She had six assists to go along with her 21 points and I think that shows what type of a team player she truly is. Her free throws in the fourth quarter also never allowed Otterville back in the game.”
Schupp finished the game as the leading scorer with 21 points along with eight rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Melanie Wolfe also played a huge role and finished the game with a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. She also had two steals. Chloe Schlotzhauer added 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals while Abby Schupp chipped in four points, three rebounds and two assists, Natalie Rentel two points and two rebounds and Grace Phillips with four rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Otterville was led by Abby Nichols with 12 and Carrie Joe McKinney with 10.
The Lady Eagles may have caught Pilot Grove off-guard early on with the half-court press.
Although the Lady Tigers led 10-7 after one period, Otterville had the lead twice at 5-4 and 7-6 with 2:03 left before the late surge by Pilot Grove to go up by three.
“We haven’t seen a half-court press all year,” Scott said. “But at the same time I thought our defense was key to stopping their big girls along with the 10 steals in the game.”
Although the steals were huge, Pilot Grove also had everybody working on the same page offensively in the second quarter with four different players scoring to extend the lead to 26-13 at the break.
While hitting 6 of 9 shots from the field in the second period, Pilot Grove also scored the first six points on back to baskets by Wolfe and two free throws by Abby Schupp to go up 16-7.
Otterville cut it back to five after a throw throw and a three point to make it 16-11, but it was pretty much all Pilot Grove after that with a 10-2 run over the next three minutes and 23 seconds to go up by double digits at the half.
The Lady Tigers had a few tense moments in the third quarter, though. While dominating the second quarter, Pilot Grove came out with back to back baskets to start the second half to make it 30-13 with 6:41 left. However for the next four minutes, Otterville rallied back with a 13-0 run to cut the lead back to four at 30-26.
The Lady Eagles never got any closer as Pilot Grove came back and regained its composure by scoring the final six points of the period to push the lead back to eight at 34-26.
Schupp took over in the fourth quarter for the Lady Tigers by scoring 14 of the team’s 20 points, which included 10 from the foul line. While holding a 20-11 advantage in the final period against Otterville, Pilot Grove also reeled off 10 straight during a minute and a half stretch to go up 52-35.
The Lady Eagles would scoring only one more time for the rest of the game as Pilot Grove closed it out with Schupp hitting two free throws to seal the victory.
Scott said Phillips truly played well by setting the offense up to succeed on the offensive end. “Grace was zoned in today with her job,” Scott said. “She was the key. She got the ball to our three seniors in a position they could attack the basket to score. Chloe Schlotzhauer had her best all round game of the season. Her best game period. Chloe played so hard and well on both ends of the court. She had five steals on defense. Melanie Wolfe was a force inside on both ends. She really did an outstanding job on Otterville’s go to player in the post. We had to stop her to win.”