Sullivan players, coaches and fans ran the full gamut of emotion Saturday at the O’Reilly Event Center at Drury University in Springfield.
The Lady Eagles enjoyed joy, concern and worry during a 55-39 MSHSAA Class 4 quarterfinal loss to the Webb City Lady Cardinals.
“We just came out with a lot of energy and intensity,” Sullivan Head Coach Jason Merkel said. “That’s only the second time in school history we’ve been in a quarterfinal game. The girls were excited and ready for the challenge. We got out to a fast start and ended slow.”
Sullivan ended its season with a 24-5 record while matching the school’s best-ever girls basketball finish by reaching the quarterfinals. The 2008-09 Sullivan girls also were knocked out in the quarterfinal round.
Webb City (24-5) will play Smithville (25-4) Thursday in Columbia at 8:30 p.m. in the Class 4 semifinals.
“The goal is to come back,” Merkel said. “We want to get back here. We want to establish our program as a competitive program every single year. With the kids we have in the locker room and the ones we have in the program, hopefully we can stay competitive not only in the area but throughout the state.”
Sullivan came out with a hot start, jumping out to a 7-0 lead over the Lady Cardinals. Sullivan maintained a seven-point edge through half of the quarter before Webb City found the range, ending the quarter on an 8-4 run to cut the lead to 14-10 after one quarter.
“I think they made hustle plays coming down to the last two or three minutes,” Merkel said. “When we jumped out and had the lead, Webb City was making hustle plays going out and making offensive rebounds. We weren’t able to get back on transition defense and stop them or contain. We were our own worst enemy.”
Any concern on the Sullivan bench turned into worry during the second quarter. The Lady Cardinals ripped off another seven points in a row to tie it at 17-17 with 2:52 remaining in the half.
Sullivan stopped that run with a basket, but the Lady Cardinals went on another six-point run to end the half with a 23-19 lead.
The second half belonged to the team in light blue and red. The Cardinals outscored Sullivan 16-7 in the third quarter to hold a 39-26 advantage after three quarters.
“The third quarter was huge,” Merkel said. “They’re making threes and we’re missing every shot. We’re 2-19 from three and they were 7-21. They hit a majority of them in the third quarter back-to-back and pushed that lead. When they’re making threes and we’re struggling to hit two-footers, it’s hard to win.”
Concern turned into worry on the Sullivan bench by that time, but junior Aley Lucas hit a three and then scored off a quick steal to give Sullivan the surge it needed to have a chance to rally.
But Webb City did everything it needed to do to stop that rally. The Lady Cardinals took care of the ball, forced Sullivan to foul and made enough free throws to keep a comfortable lead, winning 55-39.
Perhaps the telling factor in the game was shooting, especially from beyond the arc.
Webb City hit seven of 21 three-point attempts while Sullivan was 2-19.
Overall, Webb City was 19-48 from the field for the game while Sullivan went 15-57. Webb City was 10-21 from the free-throw line while Sullivan went 7-13.
“They’re big and they’re strong,” said Merkel. “Sometimes we’re able to grind the ball inside the paint. We weren’t able to do that very well. Plus, our shots weren’t falling. We were pretty dismal shooting it. We were missing a lot of two-footers and Webb City was making theirs.”
Sullivan was paced in scoring by Aley Lucas, who recorded a double-double with 15 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
Senior Demi Reed, one of two Sullivan players who will be graduating from this team, ended with 10 points and one blocked shot.
Junior Taylor Lucas scored seven points with five rebounds, three steals and one assist. She fouled out with 1:58 to play.
Sophomore Megan Brandt scored four points with nine rebounds and four steals after coming off the bench.
Senior Jessica Heinle scored two points with one assist and one steal.
Junior Sierra Pryor added one point with five rebounds, one assist and one steal.
Also playing were sophomore Kaitlynn Hill (three rebounds, one assist, one steal) and freshman Aubrey Daniel.
“We had great seniors,” Merkel said. “Jessica Heinle and Demi Reed will be missed. They were two good leaders.”
Mikaela Burgess led Webb City in scoring with 13 points while adding five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Casey Heger recorded a double-double for Webb City with 11 points and 14 rebounds to go with one blocked shot and a steal.
Desirea Buerge scored nine points while adding five rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and one steal.
Kaitlin Beason scored eight points with seven rebounds and two assists.
Lexey Kneib came off the bench to score eight points with two rebounds.
Asia Bemo scored four points with one rebound.
Megan Heman ended with two points, one blocked shot and one rebound.
Others seeing action were Kenzie Cooper (one rebound), Katlyn Crane, Kaylee Reynolds and Peyton Rogers.