By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Republic, Mo. — Hartville is headed back to the final four.
The Lady Eagles downed Miller 40-26 in Saturday’s Class 2 quarterfinal behind Sadie Chisum’s game-high 17 points.
The senior guard hit a 3-pointer in the opening minute, kicking off a 12-0 Hartville run to start the game.
For head coach Mike Percival, the run proved to be crucial.
“I’m pretty sure that the lead we jumped out to was pretty close to the difference of the end of the game so that was a big deal,” Percival said. “We didn’t shoot the ball extremely well today but we did some things in the half court that we’ve really been working hard on, so it was kind of fulfilling.”
Claudia Hadlock’s conventional three-point play finally got Miller on the scoreboard midway through the first quarter.
Hadlock finished with 14 points to lead the Lady Cardinals.
Miller head coach Hannah Wilkerson — a member of Miller’s 2010 final four squad — felt the early missed opportunities put her team in a difficult position against a dangerous Hartville squad.
“We knew that Hartville was going to come out fast and come right at us,” Wilkerson said. “We had a few easy layups we missed and we didn’t capitalize on. We waited a little too long, but we got back in it.”
Miller answered Hartville’s early barrage with a 14-5 run of its own to close out the first half trailing by a mere three points.
After a sluggish second quarter, Hartville regained its focus and with yet another quick start.
Chisum and Grace Culver combined for a 10-0 Hartville run to stretch the lead back to double digits at 27-14.
Miller closed to within seven at the end of the period, but the Lady Cardinals weren’t able to trim the lead any further.
Wilkerson lamented her team’s second sluggish start of the contest.
“Coming out of the locker room, the third quarter killed us,” WIlkerson said. “We got we got back in it, and we’re down three at halftime — and then you have a chance. It’s a one-possession game. We had 16 minutes left, and we just came out in the third quarter and we didn’t finish. We had some turnovers that absolutely killed us, and we just weren’t getting the shots that we wanted.”
After dribbling out the final 20 seconds, an emotional Chisum was quickly lost in a center-court dogpile with her teammates.
“I was just thinking it was kind of a weird feeling,” Chisum said. “I was thinking, ‘we’re going to state,’ and it wasn’t really real right then. I wasn’t planning on dogpiling, but then somebody jumped on top of somebody, and we all went down — it was awesome.”
The victory marks Hartville’s first trip to the final four since its championship run in 2007.
Percival shared some thoughts of that experience with his current crop of players in the locker room following the victory.
“We went about 12 years ago, and it kind of brings back some old memories,” Percival said. “So we talked a little bit about that in there with the girls — the tradition and what we’ve done in the past — and we’re real excited, of course. The girls were about in tears over here on the floor when the clock was still running down.”
Culver joined Chisum in double figures for the Lady Eagles with 12 points.
The junior forward was quick to credit Chisum — a longtime friend and teammate — for creating repeated scoring opportunities.
“Sadie and I have played together for a really long time, and we work really well together,” Culver said. “When she has a lot of attention drawn towards her, she does a really good job of getting other people open, and I think that was a big part of it. She created everything that I got, pretty much.”
Miller ends its season with a 25-6 record.
Next up for Hartville is a semifinal matchup with Mid-Buchanan on March 8 at Missouri State University.
For Chisum and her teammates, a dream season continues.
“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was little, because I’d seen some of my older friends do it from other schools,” Chisum said. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Class 2 Quarterfinal: Hartville – 40, Miller – 26
Hartville 12 05 10 13 — 40
Miller 07 07 06 06 — 26
Hartville scoring: Sadie Chisum – 17, Grace Culver – 12, Skylar Divine – 3, Mckinley Sanders – 4, Katherine Still – 4
Miller scoring: Claudia Hadlock – 14, Payten Richardson – 5, Bethany Gulick – 4, Jessica Epps – 2, Kaylee Helton – 1