By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
WEBB CITY, Mo. – Tuesday’s sectional basketball game might as well have been a game of horse.
The Lakeland and Lockwood girls combined to take 64 free throws – including 36 in the fourth quarter alone.
It was the Vikings who proved clutch at the free throw line, as top-ranked Lakeland scored 16 of its 20 fourth-quarter points at the charity stripe and beat Lockwood 60-48 at Webb City High School.
The Vikings advance to the Class 1 quarterfinals for the first time ever. They’ll face Weaubleau – for the third time this season – on Saturday night.
“I don’t know when we’re going to be home,” Lakeland coach Justen Cooper said. “It’ll be after midnight but that’s alright, we’ll take it tonight.”
The Vikings built a 15-point lead in the third quarter, but saw that trimmed to just five early in the fourth as Lakeland scored just two points in a span of over seven minutes.
Until that point in the game Lakeland hadn’t shot particularly well at the free throw line, making just four of 10 shots in the first three quarters.
But sophomore Ryan Landes stepped to the line with 6:38 remaining and her team clinging to a 40-35 advantage. She made both shots.
A minute later, senior Annie Swaters made two more. After a basket by sophomore Madison Thompson, Lakeland’s final field goal of the game, Swaters went to the line again with 4:28 remaining and made both shots. That made the score 50-39.
“We finally calmed down,” Cooper said. “We were ahead 15 in the third and we went through this stretch. We missed two or three that went all the way down and came back out. We kind of lost our cool a little bit right there but we calmed back down and took care of the ball. That was the big thing. We took care of the ball late in the game. Set it up and ran what we needed to run instead of trying to take off like a bat out of heck.”
Swaters had a huge fourth quarter, scoring seven points and making five of six free throws before fouling out with 1:40 left in the game.
“She’s a big key to our success so I was a little nervous at that point,” Cooper said.
The Vikings led by as many as 12 down the stretch, but Lockwood never quit. The Tigers pulled within six points at 52-46 with two minutes remaining when senior Hope Dunagan grabbed an offensive rebound and scored.
Lockwood freshman Kelyn Holman scored with 1:20 remaining to keep her team within seven, but the Tigers suffered key losses late as both senior Mckenzie Kennon and senior Lillian Eggerman fouled out. They combined for 18 points.
The Tigers also made just four of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter, and 12 of 30 in the game.
“Down the stretch we didn’t hit some shots, but I really think we fought and put ourselves in good opportunities to get to the free throw line,” Lockwood coach Jessica McNichols said. “We fought to the end.”
Trying to hand Lakeland its first loss of the season, Lockwood jumped out to a 12-8 lead in the first quarter and trailed 15-14 early in the second when the Vikings went on an 18-7 run to close out the half and lead 33-21.
Lakeland’s lead grew to 14 a few seconds into the third quarter, and then a three pointer by Thompson made it 38-23 with 5:50 left in the third quarter.
After that, the Vikings scored on just one of their next 14 possessions. Lockwood’s Kennon scored all of her 14 points in the second half – seven in each quarter – to help the Tigers pull within eight points by the end of the third.
She grabbed an offensive rebound and scored a minute into the fourth, and later made a free throw to make it 40-35.
“We knew we had a tall task ahead of us,” McNichols said. “I think we came in prepared and we were excited. It was a couple little things here and there, maybe miscues, matchups, things like that that got us.”
“When we were down 15 we could have rolled over and died but we decided nope, not tonight,” she said.
Kennon led the Tigeres in scoring with 14 points and Dunagan and Holman each scored 10. Swaters led Lakeland with 22 points, Landes scored 19 and Thompson scored 11.
Lockwood finishes the year 19-11, while Lakeland improves to 29-0.
The Vikings, who won their three district games by an average of more than 33 points, now face a rematch in the quarterfinals with Weaubleau, a team they’ll be trying to beat for the third time. Lakeland beat them 68-40 in November, and 51-50 in January.
“I know Weaubleau’s going to be ready and it should be a great game,” Cooper said.
That game will tip off at 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Southwest Baptist in Bolivar.