Strafford girls dominate state semifinal; one win away from fourth straight title

By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

Maddie Chittenden heard it non-stop Wednesday.

Many of her Strafford High School classmates came up to her with a simple request.

If Strafford could win its Class 3 Show-Me Showdown semifinal game against Trenton on Thursday night, the school would release students at 2 p.m. Friday – giving them plenty of time to head to Springfield for the Lady Indians’ 4:30 p.m. championship game at JQH Arena.

So, could the Lady Indians oblige and, uh, win?

“I cannot count on two hands how many of them came up and said, ‘You guys better win because I want to get out at 2 o’clock,” Chittenden said.

The Lady Indians delivered. As usual.

Strafford won its state-record 114th straight game, beating previously undefeated Trenton 63-33 at JQH Arena.

Hayley Frank had a double-double with 25 points and 14 rebounds. Kayley Frank added 14 points and eight rebounds, and Chittenden finished with 15 points.

The Lady Indians can earn a fourth-straight state championship by beating Lutheran North on Friday. After a crowd of at least 5,000 watched their semifinal game against Trenton, the Lady Indians figure to have fan support on their side.

“I think (our classmates) are really enjoying (the early release),” Kayley Frank said. “That’s probably the highlight of their night.”

Added Chittenden: “I remember the Republic game (when Strafford surpassed the previous state record for consecutive wins). The stands were packed before the game even started. Each one of us were just so jittery. I think we take the nerves and turn them into energy.”

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF THE GAME

Strafford had another fast start Thursday night.

The Lady Indians led 8-0 less than two minutes in, 22-9 after the first quarter and 37-16 at halftime.

“They’re pretty good,” Trenton coach Brian Upton said of Strafford. “There’s a reason they’ve won a hundred-something games in a row. They didn’t let us do the things we normally do.”

In the first quarter, Strafford shot 5-for-8 from 3 and 8-for-14 from the field overall.

On the other end, Strafford’s defense limited Trenton to just 13-for-44 shooting overall. The Lady Bulldogs (27-1 overall) were 6-for-21 from 3-point range.

“They made us look like an average team,” Upton said. “And I don’t think we’re an average team.”

Hayley Frank, a Mizzou signee, sat the final 3:30 of the first half after picking up her second personal foul. With Strafford’s leading scorer on the bench, Trenton was still unable to cut into a 20-point deficit.

Trenton finished with 19 turnovers.

Chittenden drew the primary defensive assignment on Trenton’s top perimeter player, Ainsley Tolson (17.0 ppg), who finished with 11 points on 4-for-15 shooting.

“That’s the unstated thing about our team: we play really good defense and force (teams) to their weaknesses,” Hayley Frank said.

Strafford shot 22-for-52 from the field overall and 11-for-25 on 3-point attempts. The Lady Indians were 8-for-17 at the free throw line.

Strafford’s opponent in Friday’s title game – Lutheran North – is a familiar one.

The Lady Indians won 64-55 at Lutheran North in late December.

“It was just… wild,” Strafford senior guard Kyndall Compton said of the game. “We know what to expect with them. I think we’re more excited to just play in the state finals.”

Lutheran North beat Whitfield – Strafford’s semifinal opponent last year – in the quarterfinals last Saturday.

“We definitely have something to prove after that last game (against Lutheran North),” Hayley Frank said. “We didn’t play to our capabilities. We want to get out there, send a statement, and leave it all on the floor.”

Strafford 63, Trenton 33
Trenton 9 7 6 11 — 3
Strafford 22 15 10 16 — 63

Trenton (26-1 overall) – Maci Moore 11, Ainsley Tolson 11, Salem Croy 6, Mykah Hurley 5
Strafford (32-0 overall) – Hayley Frank 25, Maddie Chittenden 15, Kayley Frank 14, Kyndall Compton 4, Mica Chadwell 3, Taylor Dormann 1, Logan Jones 1