By Denise Tucker
Rogersville, MO – The third time was not the charm for the Rogersville Lady Wildcats as Strafford ran its winning streak to 34 straight games to capture the Lady Cat Classic title with a 58-40 victory on Friday night.
For the third time since December, the two schools, located 10 miles apart on Missouri 125, squared off. Rogersville was patient on offense and tough on defense in the first quarter in taking a 10-9 lead and holding all-state sophomore Hayley Frank scoreless.
But what had Rogersville coach Denny McHenry learned from the team’s first two meetings?
“They’re darned good, that’s what I’ve learned,” McHenry said of the No. 1-ranked team in Class 3, and reigning state champions. “We’ve played them three times and two girls (Hayley Frank and Abby Oliver) really hurt us like the two girls hurt everybody that they play against.”
Oliver, who hit six 3-pointers for the game and finished with a game-high 23 points, scored five in the first quarter, with Kayley Frank adding four.
It wasn’t until the 4:10 mark in the second quarter that Hayley Frank scored her first points of the game on a feed from Mica Chadwell. She added another bucket on a runner in the lane, followed by a 3 from the top of the key to get her game rolling.
And Oliver was her steady self with two more 3s to finish with 11 points in the first half, as the Lady Indians were able to get some transition buckets and go on a late 7-0 run to take a 28-18 lead.
“You need those two girls to miss some shots and they don’t miss many,” McHenry said. “And then when you did get a double on them, they are so good – and this is why I respect their team so much – is their good players are so unselfish with the basketball.
“When you go to help, they’re finding somebody around the basket for an easy shot. And that’s what they did to us.”
Not only was it Strafford’s third win of the season over Rogersville, it was also their third tournament title for the season – winning the Ash Grove Tournament, the Pink Division title of the Pink & White Lady Classic and Friday’s Lady Cat Classic title.
“Coming into the game, with the exception of Mercer County, Kentucky (which Strafford beat 76-75 for the Pink Division title), they played us the closest all year long,” Strafford coach Steve Frank said of Rogersville, who played the Lady Indians within eight points in their first meeting. (Strafford beat its previous three opponents by an average of 70.7 points per game.)
“And of all the teams we’ve played all year long, they are the most solid 1-6. That’s what’s so scary about them, is you can’t just key on one player. They just don’t have that one kid that you can go out and try to stop. And playing them here at their place in the championship of their tournament, I was really concerned about tonight’s game.”
But aside from a slow start to the first quarter for Strafford, the Lady Indians never let Rogersville get any closer than 10 points throughout the rest of the game.
“Bottom line is they’re good and we just didn’t play good enough, and we had too many turnovers in the first half,” McHenry said.
So, what is the challenge for the Lady Indians, who improved to 18-0 on the season?
“Next Saturday, we play Southern Boone in the Scoreboard Guy Shootout at Ozark,” coach Frank said, “and, of course, they have been ranked No. 2 in Class 3 all year long, up until this last poll. So, that’s going to be a real test for us next Saturday. They were the other team in the final four last year.
“I feel like that will be a really big game, just a week away. We won’t get to rest very much, so we’re going to have to be prepared (with four games in one week).”
And, then there is always that target that the Lady Indians wear on their backs – both literally (warmup shirts) and figuratively.
“After last year, all summer long we said we were going to have a big X on our back, and that every team was going to give us their best game and we had to go out and play that way every night,” coach Frank said.
After a trip to a college game, the girls noticed that one of the teams had targets on the backs of their shirts, so they decided to adopt the same philosophy.
“We remind ourselves every night that every team is going to give you their best game and so we have to go out and play,” coach Frank said. “Those teams we’re playing have been thinking about us for three or four weeks, and you’ve got to realize that that’s their statement game, if they can get it, so we have to go out and play every night.”
STRAFFORD GIRLS 58, ROGERSVILLE 40
Lady Cat Classic Championship
STRAFFORD – 9-19-18-12—58
ROGERSVILLE – 10-8-13-9—40
ROGERSVILLE (12-6) – Hailey Brown 10, Maci McHenry 9, Sarah Jordan 8, Jordyn Gault 6, Jenn Branstetter 2, Taylor Overstreet 2, Hannah Hefley 2, Sydney Dunavant 1.
STRAFFORD (18-0) – Abby Oliver 23, Hayley Frank 17, Kayley Frank 6, Logan Jones 5, Zoey Mullings 4, Mica Chadwell 2, Kyndall Compton 1.
Third place – Catholic 64, Willard 58
Fifth place – Marshfield 42, Joplin 23
Consolation – Glendale 55, Fordland 32
All-Tournament Team – (Rogersville) Sarah Jordan, Maci McHenry, Hailey Brown; (Catholic) Jaycee Cabasi, Madison Chittenden; (Marshfield) Savanna Vance; (Strafford) Abby Oliver, Kayley Frank, Hayley Frank; (Willard) Joran Stout-Mitchell.