Ash Grove advances to play El Dorado Springs in the title game at 2:40 p.m. Saturday.
They join Walnut Grove (Class 1), Skyline (Class 2) and Crane (Class 2) as local teams playing in Saturday’s finals.
“It’s nice because it shows all the good teams we’ve played,” said Ash Grove senior Katie Skelton, who matched Abby Arico with a team-high 12 points. “It shows how good the competition is in Southwest Missouri.”
Ash Grove built a double-digit lead early in the second half before watching it evaporate. Karinne Lane’s runner in the final seconds capped a 15-4 Bearcats’ run and gave her team a 26-25 lead at halftime.
“That shot at halftime sucks, not gonna lie,” Arico said. “It’s a kick in the gut. At halftime, I think we just looked like we were down and I think we realized we had to work harder.”
The Lady Pirates got a big lift in the second half when Lakin Simmerman, saddled on the bench with two fouls, returned to the game. Ash Grove went to her on its first two possessions, and Simmerman scored both times. She finished with 11 points, all coming in the second half.
“I told (Simmerman) that her legs should be fresh,” laughed Ash Grove coach Jesse Alsup. “She ought to be able to help Katie out here.”
Ash Grove led by five going in the fourth quarter. Simmerman scored to put the Lady Pirates up for good at 50-39 at the midway point. Hermann, which entered the game 27-1 overall, had just three points in the fourth quarter and didn’t score in the final four minutes. The Bearcats shot 3-for-19 from the field in the second half.
“We knew we got out-hustled (in the first half),” Skelton said. “We had to pick up the tempo and get a lot better on defense.”
Ash Grove shot 21-for-36 from the field, 11-for-13 from the free throw line and out-rebounded Hermann 27-19.
Saturday’s final will crown a first-time state champion. Neither Ash Grove nor El Dorado Springs had even made it to state before this season.
Ash Grove 58, Hermann 39
Hermann 7 19 10 3 --- 39
Ash Grove 10 15 16 17 --- 58
Hermann – Tesla Ruediger 13, Karinee Lane 8, Jamie Gleeson 7, Cameron Hackmann 5, Kali Stiers 3, Kristen Leimkuehler 3
Ash Grove – Abby Arico 12, Katie Skelton 12, Lakin Simmerman 11, Madi Johnson 8, Morgan Allred 6, Jamie Mauss 4, Halee Cashio 3, Erin Weinreis 2
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