No fans will be in attendance to see Sullivan’s basketball Lady Eagles try for their first trip to the state semifinals.
Sullivan (25-2) plays in the Class 4 state quarterfinal round Saturday against unbeaten Carl Junction (27-0) Saturday at 1 p.m. on the campus of Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar.
However, the event will be closed to the public amid ongoing efforts to protect against the spread of COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus, by limiting crowd sizes. Only essential personnel will be allowed in the arena. Each participating school has the responsibility of determining which personnel are essential.
Working media members will have access to the event provided they arrive one hour prior to the contest or make prior arrangements Friday before 2:30 p.m.
Saturday’s winner advances to the state tournament at the JQH Arena on the campus of Missouri State University next week.
Sullivan, the District 9 champion, defeated Helias Catholic (15-13) Tuesday, 49-37, in the sectional round at Missouri S&T in Rolla.
Carl Junction, the District 12 champion, defeated West Plains (27-2), 41-33, at Nixa Tuesday in sectional play.
“It’s going to be a tough game and we’re going to have to play our best to get past them,” Sullivan Head Coach Jordan Flora said. “. . . We’re just happy we made it that far and with that group, anything is possible.”
Two seasons ago, Carl Junction finished second in the state in Class 4. In 2017, the team finished fourth in the state.
Sullivan has three district championships in the last four seasons, but has never gone past the quarterfinal round.
Sullivan most recently reached the sectional round during the 2017-18 season, losing in overtime to MICDS.
Senior Mallory Shetley was a starter on that team as a sophomore. This time, the Lady Eagles got a more favorable sectional outcome as Shetley poured in 28 points, her second highest scoring total of the season, to lead Sullivan past Helias.
“It feels really amazing,” Shetley said. “Last year, we had this opportunity and didn’t get things done. This year we did.”
Sullivan may or may not be playing without one starter in senior forward Riley Lock, who suffered a knee injury in the final minutes of the fourth quarter Tuesday.
The Lady Eagles are averaging 52.7 points per game this season while limiting opponents to 34.7 points per game.
Thus far, the Lady Eagles have been able to avenge their only two losses of the season. Sullivan was defeated by Rolla in the first game of the season and then by Union in Four Rivers Conference league play.
Sullivan got its revenge by eliminating both Union and Rolla in the district tournament.
Carl Junction, led by Gatorade Missouri Girls Player of the Year Katie Scott, has defeated each of its opponents by an average score of 63.3-36.
Scott, a senior forward, has amassed more than 1,800 career points and is committed to play for Drury University next winter.
She has averaged 22.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per game this season, including a 26-point, 13-rebound performance in a district championship win over Webb City.
Freshman Destiny Beurge is the team’s second go-to scoring option with 11 points per game. She shoots 33 percent from three-point range.
However, Carl Junction’s most potent long-range threat is senior Dani Wrensch, a 41 percent outside shooter. Wrensch has 37 makes from three-point range on the year and averages 5.5 points per game.
Whichever team advances to the semifinals will play either Incarnate Word Academy (26-4) or Ladue (23-4) March 19 at 2:45 p.m.
The four teams still playing in the other half of the bracket include Cape Notre Dame (24-4), Rockwood Summit (26-3), Grain Valley (20-7) and Lincoln College Prep (17-9).
The Class 4 championship game will be played back at JQH Arena March 20 at 12:40 p.m. and the third-place game at 12:50 p.m. in the adjoining Hammonds Student Center.