By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
If you look closely at Strafford’s latest district championship plaque, you may notice some blemishes.
The Lady Indians celebrated by kissing the plaque, one by one.
“There were a lot of smudge marks on it, let’s just say that,” said Strafford junior Logan Jones. “It’s not very sanitary.”
Germ hazards aside, Strafford had a near-flawless performance in Saturday afternoon’s Class 3 District 11 Tournament title game at Clever High School.
Hayley Frank four Strafford players in double figures with 22 points and set the MSHSAA career rebounding record in the process, as Strafford defeated Fair Grove 75-43.
The outcome extends Strafford’s record win streak to 111 and gives the Lady Indians their fourth straight district title.
“The pressure still hasn’t gone away,” Jones said. “As we keep going and going, the pressure’s still there. We still want to get to that final four game. Hopefully we can do it. Knock on wood.”
Strafford (29-0 overall) faces Mt. Vernon (25-4 overall) at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday at Willard High School in a Class 3 sectional matchup.
The Lady Indians beat Mt. Vernon 71-42 in a Pink and White Lady Classic title game in late December. Strafford, which set the state record for consecutive wins earlier this season, is now four wins away from a fourth straight state championship.
“Throughout the season, we’ve tried to not take anything for granted,” said Strafford coach Steve Frank. “I think this is just as sweet as the first one was. Deep down, I think they appreciate what they’ve done up to this point.”
Hayley Frank finished with a game-high 19 rebounds (and six assists), giving her a state-record 1,570 for her career. Metro’s Brooke Flowers (2014-17) held the previous record of 1,563.
Fair Grove finishes 24-4 overall. The Lady Eagles’ season has ended against Strafford in the district finals in two of the past four seasons.
“If you’re going to lose, it might as well be to a state champion,” said Fair Grove coach Jenny Talbert. “It’s unfortunate that we’re in the same district because I think my team is really good. In any other district, I think we could have a really good chance to win it.”
Strafford wasted little time in asserting its dominance against Fair Grove.
The Lady Indians scored 29 of the game’s first 34 points.
“We told ourselves, ‘We have to put this game (away) at the very beginning,’” Jones said. “We have to come out and have as much energy as we did for the Whitfield game. We have to pass, pass, pass until we get the right shot we need, and that’s what happened.”
Three Strafford players had nine or more points by halftime. Six Lady Indians made a 3-pointer on the night.
“It’s kind of backbreaking when you work so hard on defense and the girls you think you can maybe help off of are hitting 3s… that’s tough,” Talbert said. “They’ve won that many in a row for a reason.”
Strafford led 39-18 at halftime and pushed its lead to turbo-clock territory – 30 points – in the second half.
“We knew we needed to shoot better,” Talbert said. “If our guards don’t shoot well, (Strafford) has no reason to not help off them and sag in on Alana (Findley) and Harley (Maxwell). We didn’t shoot very well.”
Steve Frank praised the defensive efforts of senior Maddie Chittenden and Mica Chadwell, who took turns guarding Fair Grove’s top scorer, Alana Findley. Findley finished with six points.
“There are so many different areas of this team that make it special, and that’s just one of them,” Frank said. “They lock down on defense and whatever the other team’s strengths are, we do a good job of taking that away.”
Fair Grove graduates a five-player senior class. Alana Findley finishes her career with over 2,000 career points.
Strafford 75, Fair Grove 43
Fair Grove 5 13 13 12 — 43
Strafford 19 20 21 15 — 75
Fair Grove (24-4 overall) – Harley Maxwell 14, Maddie Clark 9, Alana Findley 6, Lexie Sutherland 6, Brooklyn Luna 5, Cyndey Fullerton 3
Strafford (29-0 overall) – Hayley Frank 22, Logan Jones 18, Kayley Frank 15, Maddie Chittenden 10, Taylor Dormann 4, Kyndall Compton 3, Mica Chadwell 3