No. 2 Strafford uses strong defense to beat No. 5 Licking

By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

Like the honey badger, Mica Chadwell doesn’t care.

Diving for loose balls. Taking charges. Battling for rebounds. Scoring in crunch time.

The Strafford High School senior does a little bit of everything, metal leg and all.

“It takes a toll on my body and stuff, but I don’t really care,” Chadwell said. “I’m young. My body will heal itself.”

Chadwell and sophomore point guard Emma Compton – who scored a game-high 16 on the other end – led a stingy Strafford defense in Tuesday night’s home win over Licking.

In a matchup of top-five teams in Class 3, Strafford held Licking to just 11 second-half points for a 45-35 comeback victory.

“Early on, a couple of shots didn’t fall for us and we were doubting ourselves,” said Strafford coach Dustin Larsen. “I thought we responded really well and turned it up defensively.”

Strafford, ranked No. 2 in the MBCA/mosports.com Class 3 poll, trailed by five at halftime but retook the lead in the second half with defense and perimeter shooting. All five of the Lady Indians’ 3-pointers came in the second half.

“We were playing timid – Licking was playing good and they blocked a few of our shots – and we went into the locker room at halftime and regrouped,” Chadwell said. “We just said, ‘Hey, that’s not our style of play. Let’s get to it.’ We started playing as a team.”

Compton made back-to-back 3s that put Strafford ahead 30-26 late in the third quarter and ignited the game’s decisive run.

Logan Jones and Taylor Dormann followed with treys early in the fourth that extended the margin to 40-31.

Licking, ranked No. 5 in the MBCA/mosports.com Class 3 poll, had just seven second-half points until the final two minutes.

“(Strafford) just plays hard,” said Licking coach Steve Rissler. “And they killed us on the glass (rebounding).

“We don’t understand, yet, that every possession matters when you play elite teams.”

Chadwell sealed the game with a pair of baskets that pushed Strafford’s lead to 44-31. She also drew a charge.

After breaking her femur in an ATV accident last spring, the 5’7” senior forward spent four months rehabbing and returned in time for volleyball season in the fall. She hasn’t slowed down since.

“Sometimes, I’ll dive on (my leg) wrong or whatever and it’ll sting. I’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, I have metal (from surgery) in my leg,’” Chadwell said. “Then, I just forget about it after that.

“But, it’s good. It works.”

Strafford (18-2 overall) fell behind 10-4 early and trailed 24-19 at halftime after a late 3-pointer from Licking’s Karlee Holland.

Holland scored 11 of her team-high 13 in the first half.

“We came out and shot the ball well,” Rissler said. “I told (our players) at halftime, ‘If you thought Strafford played hard in the first half, they’re going to play even harder now.’ And we didn’t answer.”

Three freshmen saw playing time for Licking (13-5 overall) on Tuesday night. The Lady Wildcats will get a depth boost next week with the return of 5’11” sophomore Kiley Ingram, Rissler said.

Strafford plays at Republic this Thursday. Republic snapped Strafford’s state-record 123-game winning streak earlier this season.

Strafford 45, Licking 35
Licking 14 10 5 6 — 35
Strafford 12 7 15 11 — 45

Licking (13-5 overall) – Karlee Holland 13, Kylie Taylor 9, Abbie Sullins 5, Winter Murray 3, Anna Sullins 2, Abagail Moncrief 2, Kaida Cook 1
Strafford (18-2 overall) – Emma Compton 16, Mica Chadwell 12, Taylor Dormann 9, Logan Jones 4, Mattie Walker 4