By Don Eskins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Hartville Lady Eagles downed Fordland High 57-47, on Thursday night in Fordland, to grab this year’s Summit Conference title. Both teams entered the game with identical 6-0 conference records.
The victory pushed the Class 2 No. 4 Lady Eagles record up to 22-4 on the year. Fordland fell to 16-10.
With a conference title up for grabs both teams showed up with their ‘A’ games. Trading bucket-for-bucket throughout the contest Hartville and Fordland took the half time break tied at 31-31.
Leading the way offensively for Hartville over the first two frames was Grace Culver who found her way to the basket for 12 points. But the Lady Eagles couldn’t cool down the hot hand of Fordland High’s Abi Southard. Southard scorched the nets for 19 points to keep the underdog Fordland girls even on the scoreboard.
Fordland went on to outscore Hartville 11-10 during third quarter action to grab a slim 42-41 lead as the fourth and final quarter of play got underway.
But Hartville rallied during the final eight minutes of the contest to outscore Fordland 16-5 to collect the 57-47 victory, and along with it, a Summit Conference Championship.
“Fordland played hard all night. They were very explosive in the first half and hurt us in a few spots,” said Hartville coach Mike Percival. “But our kids settled down in the second half and did a much better job.”
“They were a very good team,” said Lady Eagle Sadie Chisum. “But we were finally able to pull away from them in the fourth quarter with some awesome defense from a few of our players.”
Hartville’s coach Percival was especially proud of the way his girls refused to break under the pressure put on them by Fordland.
“Our kids have developed a great deal of resilience over the past several years. Our seniors have gone through this four times already and during that time they’ve grown and matured a lot,” said Percival. “Our young kids buy into that and then feed off the older kids experience and it works to our advantage- just as it did tonight. I’m really proud of these kids for their efforts.”
“We’re like sisters,” Hartville’s Katie Still said. “And we’ve been together for a long time so we know what we need to do on the floor and work very hard together to get things done.”
As for Fordland, according to head coach Kevin McDaris, his girls have a lot to be proud of also.
“Our girls did a really good job defensively tonight against the girls we had designed schemes for,” said McDaris. “But they especially did a good job on the defensive boards. That’s been one of our weaknesses this year. Tonight we didn’t want to allow Hartville many second chances to score and we didn’t. I couldn’t be prouder of these girls.”
Next up for Hartville and Fordland is their District tournament. On Saturday morning, at 9 a.m., Hartville will take on Seymour and at noon Fordland will entertain Cabool.
Nartville will enter the tournament as its No. 1 seed with Fordland landing the tourney’s second spot.
Leading scorers for Hartville were Grace Culver (16), McKinley Sanders (10), Jadalyn Keith (10), Sadie Chisum (9), Skylar Divine (6) and Katie Still (6).
Fordland’s Abi Southard, with 22 points, led all scorers Thursday night. Others contributing points for Fordland were: Mahalia Burks (7), Sophie Sparks (7), Emily Whiteford (6) and Kenzie Branson (5).