By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Hailey Fullerton pulled down a huge rebound under West Plains’ basket, took it the length of the floor and found Riley Kabance on the wing where Kabance hit the game-winning 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and give the Carthage Lady Tigers a 33-31 upset victory over the third-seeded Lady Zizzers in the first round of the White Division of the Pink and White Lady Classic at the O’Reilly Family Event Center on the campus of Drury University.
With fouls to give, 26.2 seconds left in the game and trailing 31-30, Carthage fouled West Plains, taking little to no time off the clock. The Zizzers were finally able to get to the line for a one-and-one opportunity, but couldn’t connect, and Fullerton secured the miss.
“We had to extend the game,” Carthage coach Chad Jones said. “We hadn’t put them on the line and didn’t put them in the bonus, so we were trying to get as many of those fouls in as quick as we could to extend the game as long as we could.”
Instead of calling a timeout, Jones and his staff elected to let the game play out.
“We feel like with this team, they play good just kind of going off the cuff and they pulled if off for us,” Jones said.
West Plains jumped out to 9-0 lead to open the game before Carthage hit its first bucket on a Lexi Black 3-pointer with 30 seconds left in the first quarter.
But the Lady Zizzers went cold and in the second, as the Lady Tigers heated up outscoring West Plains 17-6 and taking a 20-15 lead into the locker room.
The Lady Zizzers were coming off a pre-Christmas tournament in Florida, but coach Scott Womack didn’t use that as an excuse.
“We just didn’t show much energy,” Womack said. “I just think Carthage played better than us. We didn’t deserve to win. They deserved to win.
“We kind of got fortunate in the last four minutes of the game and put ourselves in a position to win the game, but they made the shot at the end. You have to give them credit on that.”
The win was a boost for the Carthage program, playing in just its third Pink and White tournament.
“It’s pretty big for us,” Jones said. “That’s Carthage’s first win in the Pink and White. For (the win) to be against West Plains, I have a lot of respect for Coach Womack and what he’s been able to build there and how long he’s been there. It ranks up there.”
Fullerton led the Lady Tigers with 14 points and Kabance added 8. MacKenzie Brunson and Morgan Mahan paced the Lady Zizzers with 10 points apiece.
Carthage will face sixth-seeded Willard, a 55-23 winner over Aurora, in a White quarterfinal at 6 p.m. Thursday. West Plains will play Aurora at 6 p.m. in a consolation bracket quarterfinal at Weiser Gym.
PINK & WHITE INVITATIONAL
CARTHAGE 33, (3) WEST PLAINS 31
WEST PLAINS 9-6-4-12—31
CARTHAGE (7-2) – Lexi Black 3, Jillian Brunnett 4, Hailey Fulletton 14, Sydney Peters 2, Mia Duncan 2, Riley Kabance 8.
WEST PLAINS (4-6) – Hailey Meeks 9, MacKenzie Brunson 10, Morgan Mahan 10, Alli Holesapple 2.