By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
MARSHFIELD, Mo. — Saturday was that moment when all the summer drills, all the yo-yos on the gym floor and, well, everything else made sense.
All one had to do was look at the Rogersville High School girls basketball team, which collectively was in tears. That is, tears of joy.
“Our team chemistry is just so close,” junior Maci McHenry said after Rogersville captured the Class 4 District 9 championship in rallying for a 40-35 victory against the West Plains Lady Zizzers at Marshfield High School.
McHenry scored 10 points, including the go-ahead bucket with 1:32 left, as Rogersville finished the game on a 12-5 run in the final 3:02. In fact, it developed after West Plains center Morgan Mahan fouled out, leaving the Lady Zizzers vulnerable on the inside.
Sydney Dunavant and McHenry both scored on inside buckets about a minute after Mahan’s departure, and Rogersville’s Jordyn Gault got a key steal before sinking six of the team’s seven free throws in the final minute. McHenry’s bucket made it 32-30.
“That (Mahan fouling out) didn’t determine the outcome. We had plenty of chances (earlier) to expand our lead,” Womack said, referring to his team’s 30-27 advantage early in the third quarter. “For 3 ½ quarters, we did exactly what we wanted to do.”
The win marked Rogersville’s first district championship since 2009 after the Lady Wildcats had fallen short in the same game each of the past three seasons, including a loss to West Plains last year.
For West Plains, it had grinded its way to a 17-win season despite not having three players, including two starters, who had suffered knee injuries.
The teams had split two match-ups this season, including a 39-32 West Plains win in the Fair Grove Tournament finals in which Rogersville trailed 22-4.
That helped explain why it was neck and neck throughout. Rogersville led 10-9 after the opening quarter, but West Plains held a 28-27 advantage at the end of the third quarter, with MacKenzie Brunson en route to a game-high 13 points.
What helped Rogersville at times was its ability to feed the ball inside for buckets against West Plains’ zone defense, with Dunavant and McHenry both scoring on in-bounds plays right after halftime.
Another factor was simply the availability of McHenry, who wasn’t cleared to play until about seven minutes before tipoff.
Apparently, she was poked in an eye in the semifinals and, because she suffers from an eye disease, Rogersville held her out of practice the past three days before her dad-coach made sure she attended school for half-day Friday, ensuring her eligibility for the district championship.
Her return echoed the team motto, which the coach described as “just never give in to anything.”
“That’s the way we played every game,” Coach McHenry said.
Gault finished with 11 points, but her steal was crucial after Rogersville took the 32-30 lead. West Plains had worked the ball in to the corner briefly in front of its own bench, but Gault stole the pass into the backcourt.
“That was huge momentum for us,” Gault said. “I knew I needed to lock down on defense. Once that ball went up, I was going for it.”
Kendra Davidson finished with nine points, Hailey Meeks eight and Mahan and Cass Cunningham combined for five points for West Plains.
Taylor Overstreet (6), senior Harley Brown (5), Shelby Ince (5) and Dunavant (3) all contributed for Rogersville. Brown, a senior, sank the final two free throws for the final margin. The Lady Wildcats play in the sectional at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Nixa High School.
“This means a lot,” Maci McHenry said. “It’s what we’ve worked for all year.”