By Greg Morse (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Wheaton Lady Bulldogs are district champions for the first time since 1993 after upsetting No. 1 seed College Heights 60-54 to win the Class 2 District 12 championship.
It was the rubber match between the two teams as they split two regular season games.
Both teams kept up with each other throughout the first quarter with College Heights maintaining a 15-12 advantage after one quarter.
College Heights was led by junior Emmy Colin who 15 first-half points on her way to a game-high 28-point night. Fellow teammate Sophomore Grace Bishop also scored seven points in the first half to help College Heights take a 29-25 lead at halftime.
On the other side of the court, Bulldog senior Hallie Mitchell started off her 23-point game with nine points in the first half. Fellow teammate and Senior Rachel Lacey also scored eight points in the half to keep Wheaton within striking distance.
Wheaton immediately closed the 29-25 gap by going on a 4-0 run, but the Lady Cougars answered with a 5-1 run of their own. After going basket for basket with each other, College Heights pulled ahead with a 40-37 lead with two minutes left in the third. Suddenly, Mitchell nailed a 3 to tie up the game, and after a quick steal hit a second 3 in back-to-back possessions giving the Bulldogs their first lead of the night with a minute remaining.
The Lady Cougars responded with two steals of their own on back-to-back possessions, scoring on each to take a one point lead at 44-43 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
As the fourth quarter opened the Lady Cougars took full advantage of the momentum they had generated and scored four more points to get out to their largest lead of the night at 48-42. Sporting a 48-43 lead and their largest of the night, College Heights hoped to hang on for a win.
Wheaton coach Jessica Lombard made adjustments to help the Bulldogs stem the tide.
“They’re a tough team and their very good at what they do. We had to make adjustments in getting back and keeping them in front of us, and fighting for the basketball and getting rebounds,” said Lombard.
The adjustments showed as Wheaton turned on its defense and scored six points while only allowing College Heights to score four. Still facing a 3-point deficit, the Bulldogs seemingly didn’t miss a shot, including Mitchell who with 7-for-7 from the line in the fourth and 10-for-11 on the night.
“In our first game of the season, we missed 23 free throws. We had to run 223 down and backs for that. We made sure it wasn’t going to happen again,” said Mitchell of her near perfection from the line.
Wheaton would throw down an 11-0 run late in the fourth to pull away and secure the program’s first district title in 26 years.