Just where would it end?
The Sullivan Lady Eagles emerged Wednesday with a 51-41 Class 4 sectional win over Bolivar at Missouri S&T.
“It was a gutsy performance,” Sullivan Head Coach Jason Merkel said. “We did not play the best basketball or shoot free throws well. I thought our defense and rebounding was pretty good tonight.”
Sullivan (24-4) trailed by as much as seven points midway through the first quarter. The Lady Eagles rebounded to lead by as much as 12 points in the third quarter before watching Bolivar (19-8) melt that down to a two-point lead with 2:52 to play.
“It was back and forth,” Merkel said. “We let them back into the game with inconsistent play on the defensive side and missing our free throws. They were making theirs and that’s what got them back into the game.”
Sullivan was able to secure the victory at the free-throw line and with offensive rebounds in the final minutes of the contest, building the advantage back up to 10 points by the final horn.
“Then we hit some big free throws coming down the stretch and were able to push the lead and get it back to where we needed it,” Merkel said. “We got some huge offensive rebounds off free throws. We were our own worst enemy there. We were practicing free throws all week. We said that if we miss, we’ve got to spin off girls a certain way. We did it. To our credit, we were missing, but at least we were coming up with the offensive boards.”
The Lady Eagles will take on Webb City (23-5) Saturday at 2:45 p.m. in the O’Reilly Family Event Center at Drury University in Springfield.
Webb City advanced by beating West Plains (27-2) Wednesday, 57-42. This isn’t the first time this season that Sullivan and Webb City have met in a quarterfinal game. The football teams played this past fall in Webb City.
A preview of the game can be found elsewhere in this section.
The Lady Eagles made things tougher for themselves with free-throw struggles. Sullivan made just 10 of 21 attempts during the game. Combined with Bolivar’s 15-21 shooting, much of that in the second half, that contributed to Bolivar’s comeback late in the game.
Bolivar hit four three-point baskets to three for the Lady Eagles. Sullivan scored 19 field goals to 11 for Bolivar.
Leading the Lady Eagles in scoring was junior Taylor Lucas. She netted 22 points and was a force near the basket.
Junior Sierra Pryor netted 11 points for the Lady Eagles.
Sullivan got eight points from junior Aley Lucas.
Sophomore Megan Brandt scored four points.
Seniors Jessica Heinle and Demi Reed each hit three-point baskets for their points.
Also playing, and contributing near the basket, was sophomore Kaitlynn Hill.
Bolivar was paced by sophomore Randi Hancock, who netted 15 points in the contest.
Junior Shelby Roberts scored nine points.
Sophomore Madison Campbell scored eight points.
Junior Daiwa Emmert netted three points.
Seniors Samantha Jacobson and Peyton Peavey scored two points apiece. Sophomore McKenzie Lesh and junior Mary-Beth Payne added one point apiece.
Also playing was junior Elizabeth Harris.
Bolivar came out and grabbed a 4-0 lead before Taylor Lucas gave Sullivan its first basket with 4:12 to play in the opening quarter.
Bolivar responded with the next five points to take a 9-2 lead.
Sullivan fought back. Aley Lucas scored back-to-back baskets. And Pryor closed out the quarter with a basket off a steal to cut the gap to 12-8 after one quarter.
“I think we stressed attacking more,” Merkel said about Sullivan’s improvement. “Then our defense picked up for us, too. We were able to get some steals and convert them into layups. I think our zone messed them up. We’ve been playing man all year long and I think that’s what they prepared for. I think the defense bothered them as well as attacking more on offense.”
Bolivar led through much of the second quarter until Sullivan scored the final seven points of the half to take a 20-17 lead at the intermission.
Sullivan followed up with a basket from Taylor Lucas to start the second half. Bolivar had a basket waved off on a charge and Sullivan was able to stay on top.
Sullivan secured a key five-point run to start to break away. After a Hancock three, the Lady Eagles went on another 8-2 run with Taylor Lucas scoring off a rebound with 46.4 seconds to play, giving Sullivan a 37-25 advantage.
About that time, Sullivan’s fans had started chanting, “It’s all over.” Bolivar proved that thought was premature.
Sullivan enjoyed a 10-point edge after three quarters, 37-27, but Bolivar started chipping back in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Liberators hit four consecutive free throws to cut into the gap with no time being used.
Reed hit her three from the corner to stop that run, 40-31. Campbell scored to make it 40-33.
Both teams hit a scoring lull until Hancock scored five in a row, including a three-point play with 2:52 to play, to cut it to 40-38.
Sullivan held possession and Aley Lucas hit the first of a pair with 2:27 to play. The rebound of the second shot went to Sullivan and Brandt hit two free throws to extend it to 43-38 with 2:11 to play.
Sullivan extended its lead, but a Bolivar three from Roberts cut the gap back to five, 46-41 with 54.6 seconds remaining. That shot from Roberts proved to be the last field goal of the game. Sullivan had the final six free throws, hitting five of them to make the final margin of victory 10 points, 51-41.
The game marked the chance for the Lady Eagles to play at the home of former standout Hailee Parks, who is a senior forward with the Lady Miners. Parks leads Missouri S&T in scoring at 14.4 points and rebounding at 7.7 boards per game. She was named to the All-Great Lakes Valley Conference first team this week.