By Stephen Buus (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Lockwood — First place in the Spring River Valley Conference was at stake on Thursday as Lockwood hosted Pierce City. The Lady Tigers took control in the fourth quarter and defended the home floor to the tune of a 50-44 victory over the Lady Eagles.
“This is a game our kids really wanted,” said Lockwood coach Jessica McNichols. “It’s been on our schedule for awhile.”
Pierce City held the upper hand early as the Eagle guards were able to find senior post Kendyl Hayward down low. Hayward, matched up against Lockwood’s Moriah Coose, consistently outmuscled her opponent for position and scored nine of her game-high 21 points in the first quarter alone as Pierce City led 15-8.
“If we think we can get an advantage over another player,” said Pierce City coach Rob Guerin, “then we’re going to call those plays. And at that point it was Hayward’s game. We were calling the plays for her to go to work inside.”
Lockwood reversed the momentum in the second quarter, going on a 12-4 run to briefly take a 20-19 lead. A balanced effort from the likes of senior Rylee Neill and juniors Hope Dunagan and Makenzie Purinton contributed to the comeback. The Eagles would rally back to lead 26-23 at halftime.
The third quarter was mostly back and forth as there were a total of ten lead changes and eight ties throughout the contest. Lockwood led 32-31 heading into the final eight minutes.
The Lady Tigers landed the decisive blow with 2:00 remaining as junior Heather Byrnes broke a 42-42 deadlock with a bomb from the right wing that appeared to be at least 10 feet beyond the 3-point arc.
“Heather, when she’s got her confidence, we always have confidence in her every single night to hit those shots,” said McNichols. “When she’s got her sights down and her hands up ready to go, the sky’s the limit for her as far as shooting goes.”
Lockwood extended the advantage to 49-42 and Pierce City was forced to commit a bunch of fouls in short order just to get the Lady Tigers into the one-and-one. By that time, it was too late.
Neill led the Tigers with 16 points while Brynes added 12 on four treys. Belle Golubski scored 13 points to back Hayward’s 21 for the Eagles.
“We came out and executed at the end of the game,” said McNichols. “They were very patient and made good decisions. I’m really proud.”
“They [Lockwood] played some really good defense at the end of the game,” said Guerin. “We made some bad turnovers at the wrong time.”
Lockwood improved to 17-3 overall and 5-0 in the SRVC with the win heading into its next game with Dadeville. Pierce City fell to 16-5, 4-1 and next hosts Sarcoxie on Monday.
Pierce City 15 11 5 13—44
Lockwood 8 15 9 18—50
Pierce City: Kendyl Hayward 21, Belle Golubski 13, Ragan Blinzler 6, Libbey Stickler 2, Leslie Jones 2.
Lockwood: Rylee Neill 16, Heather Byrnes 12, Makenzie Purinton 9, Moriah Coose 6, Hope Dunagan 6, McKenzie Kennon 1.