The race to the top of the Four Rivers Conference girls basketball standings got a lot more interesting Thursday night.
Sullivan became the final team to drop a conference game, suffering a 50-48 home setback to Pacific.
The Lady Eagles (18-3) have lost just three games this season, two of which have come against Pacific.
“Sullivan played 10 times better (Thursday) than they did the first time we played them. It was a crazy game,” said Pacific Head Coach Josh Spuhl. “Playing there and winning was a great accomplishment for our team.”
Hermann’s 40-33 victory Thursday over New Haven means the Lady Bearcats (19-4) and the Lady Eagles stand in a first-place tie in the FRC standings with 4-1 records.
Union (14-6, 3-1) can join the top group with a win Friday at Owensville.
Pacific (16-4) and St. James (20-2) both are still alive in the hunt for the FRC crown, both sporting 3-2 records.
Needless to say, it should be a wild final week of FRC action next week.
Monday’s FRC games are Union at Sullivan, Pacific at Hermann, St. James at Owensville and New Haven at St. Clair.
Thursday’s games are Sullivan at St. James, Hermann at Union, St. Clair at Pacific and Owensville at New Haven.
“Our conference is insane. At the beginning of the year, most coaches thought it would be this way,” Spuhl said. “If we can beat Hermann and St. James defeats Sullivan, we could have a four-way tie for first place with all four teams with two losses. Union also has a chance. We also play Tuesday against Eureka in a nonconference game, a team that took Parkway South to double overtime. It’s never been our top goal to win the conference. The thing we focus on is getting better for districts. Hopefully we’ll play well in our final two conference games and see what happens from there.”
Like the last meeting between the two teams in the semifinals of the Lindbergh Tournament, Pacific started fast against Sullivan.
The Lady Indians jumped to a 14-6 lead in the opening minutes and led 16-11 after one quarter.
Sullivan chipped away in the second and third quarters, cutting Pacific’s leads to 26-23 at halftime and 37-36 after three quarters.
“It was an intense game,” Spuhl said. “We had an eight-point lead three or four times throughout the game. They got back in the game.”
There was plenty of drama in the fourth quarter.
The game was tied 41-41 with 5:35 left, 43-43 with 4:18 remaining and 46-46 with 2:41 to go.
A free throw put the Lady Eagles ahead 47-46 with 1:03 left on the clock.
Pacific’s Ellen Rogers forced a steal in the final seconds and the Lady Indians made free throws down the stretch.
With Pacific leading 50-47, Sullivan was fouled on a long three-point shot with 1.8 seconds left, sending it to the foul line for three shots and a chance to tie. The first free throw was missed and the second was made. The third shot was missed on purpose in hopes of an offensive rebound, but Pacific’s Kya Hill grabbed the rebound tho secure the win.
“This was a game that we did not play very well, but we did give ourselves a chance to win at the end,” said Sullivan Head Coach Jason Merkel. “When you shoot below 50 percent from the free-throw line and cannot come up with timely stops on defense, you’re not going to win many close games. We were our own worst enemy.”
It also was a huge win for Pacific, considering the seed meeting for the Class 4 District 9 Tournament is Saturday.
Lizzy Almo led a balanced scoring attack for Pacific 12 points.
Kya Hill and Hunter Kelemen both finished the game with eight points.
Ellen Rogers netted seven points, going 4-4 from the free-throw line.
Ashley Hill and Abby Spuhl both scored six points. Hill was 4-4 from the foul line.
Meagan Wakefield collected three points.
“It was good to have some balanced scoring,” Spuhl said. “Sullivan did a great job making things hard on Kya.”
Sullivan also had a balanced scoring attack, led by Taylor Lucas’ 13 points. She was 3-3 from the foul line.
Sierra Pryor finished the game with 11 points.
Aley Lucas pitched in with seven points.
Heinle and Kaitlynn Hill both scored seven points. Megan Brandt had one point.
Pacific was 17-20 from the free-throw line. Sullivan was 10-19.
“We made 17 of our first 18 free-throw attempts,” Spuhl. “We missed a couple at the end of the game.”