Bunceton with Prairie Home girls basketball coach Dustin Ray said it best when referring to Tuesday’s semifinal game against Slater in the Otterville Holiday Classic.
After beating the Wildcats by 20 in the season opener in November, Ray knew it would be a different game this time around.
He was right.
The Lady Dragons had to fight off several rallies by a much improved Slater squad for a 56-47 victory.
“We had to weather the storm to achieve this win,” Ray said. “All out good game from several girls. Points were spread around and we did just enough to pull past a very tough Slater team. Their record does not show how good of a team they are. We have to continue to get better at the small pieces of the game to continue to be successful.”
As the No. 1 seed in the tournament, the Lady Dragons (7-3) will have an even tougher task Saturday in the championship game against Otterville. Although the Dragons beat the Eagles earlier in the season by 16 (66-52) on Dec. 3, it was Bunceton’s third game of the season compared to Otterville’s first.
The Lady Eagles are currently 5-2 on the season with their only other loss coming to Community R-6. Otterville beat Smithton 49-44 in its semifinal game on Tuesday.
Tip off for the championship game is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 4 starting at 2:30 p.m.
As for the game against Slater,  the Lady Dragons led at the end of each quarter but had some tense moments in-between while battling the Wildcats to three ties  and three lead changes in the first half.
Slater led only once in the first half after going up 9-8 on a putback by senior Emilee Grimes with 1:45 left in the opening period. However the hot hand of junior Kelsey Watson carried the Lady Dragons early on with six of the team’s 13 points to make it 13-11 after one.
Bunceton also held a 13-9 advantage in the second quarter, which included a 9-0 run during a three and a half minute span to extend the lead to 26-18 with 39 seconds left.
However after Slater cut the lead to six at the half at 26-20, the momentum shifted in the third period as the Wildcats rallied back from a nine point deficit at 31-22 to cut the lead to two at 35-33 with 1:08 left.
Bunceton led 39-36 at the end of three but had Slater on their heels with eight minutes remaining.
The fourth quarter was just as close as the third as Bunceton led by as much as five early in the period only to have Slater cut it back to two at 45-43 with 4:00 left. The Wildcats also had the lead down to one at 48-47 with 2:19 remaining with several opportunities to go up. However in the final two minutes, Bunceton pulled away at the free throw line by hitting 6 of 10 shots.
The Lady Dragons outscored Slater 8-0 over the final minute and 42 seconds.
Watson finished the game for Bunceton with 18 points along with six rebounds.
Madelynn Myers chipped in 11 points and six rebounds while Ashlyn Twenter added 10 points and four rebounds, Chloe Moser nine points and 10 rebounds, Maggie Wood five points, four rebounds and two steals and Cara Bishop with three points.
The Lady Dragons also finished the game, hitting 15 of 47 shots from the field for 32 percent and 14 of 34 from the foul line for 41 percent.
For Slater, Grimes had 18, Abby Uhlich 15, Madison Beeler 10 and Kayla Richards and Amaya Cortez each with two.
In games on Monday in the consolation semifinals, La Monte won 65-17 over Northwest while Lincoln upended Hermitage 40-25.
Northwest and Hermitage will play in the seventh place game on Friday, as will Lincoln and La Monte in the fifth place game. Slater and Smithton girls will play for third place on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
Bishop nets 12 to lead Bunceton with Prairie Home girls past NW
Bunceton senior Cara Bishop scored a game-high 12 points to lead the Lady Dragons past Northwest of Hughesville 58-16 in the opening round of the Otterville Holiday Classic on Dec. 28.
The Lady Dragons, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, outscored Northwest of Hughesville in all four quarters and led 22-5 after one, 41-11 at the half and 54-15 after three quarters of play. Meanwhile, in the final period, Bunceton held a 4-2 advantage to win the game by 42.
Bunceton coach Dustin Ray said this was another team win for these girls. “Everybody is showing improvements on both sides of the ball,” Ray said. “Game 2 of the Otterville Tournament will be a tough one playing against Slater but I believe this team is ready for the challenge.”
To go along with her 12 points, Bishop also had one rebound, one steal and one assist for the Lady Dragons.
Chloe Moser finished the game with nine points, seven rebounds, five steals and two assists while Madison Brown added eight points, three rebounds, three assists and one steal, Ashlyn Twenter six points, five rebounds and one steal, Maddie Brandes six points, three rebounds and one assist, Maggie Wood five points, two rebounds and one steal, Madelynn Myers four points, two rebounds and one assist, Kelsey Watson two points, six assists, three rebounds and one steal, Lyrik Tracy two points, two steals and one rebound, Reagan Triebsch two points and one rebound and Savanna Tracy with two points.
For the game, Bunceton hit on 22 of 57 shots from the field for 39 percent and 10 of 18 from the free throw line for 56 percent.
Emily Gregory had the game high for Northwest of Hughesville with nine points.