Posted: Wednesday, 06 March 2013 12:02PM

Final Four Preview: Crane Lady Pirates

Springfield, Mo. (  -- Final Four Primer: Crane (28-3)

The Lady Pirates are back in the Final Four for the first time since 2008. Crane went 0-2 in that trip to Columbia. Will this trip end with a state title?

Journey through the Tourney – Crane has had a roller coaster ride to Columbia. After rolling through District 11 by an average of 42 points per contest, the Lady Pirates had a few scares in Sectionals and the quarterfinals. Sectionals saw Crane lose a 17-point lead before holding on to top Pierce City 57-55. To add to Blue Nation’s blood pressure, Crane needed all 32 minutes (some would are argue it was more than 32 minutes) to top No. 7 Crocker in a controversial quarterfinals 69-66.

Pictures: Crane vs. Crocker - CLICK HERE

Why they should win – Jeremy Mullins is the John Chaney of Southwest Missouri. He doesn’t care what the name on the front of your jersey says, he will play you. Much like their semifinal opponent Skyline, Crane played one of the toughest schedules around. The Lady Pirates had 12 regular season games against teams that played in their districts final or beyond. From Walnut Grove to Ash Grove to Parkview, the Lady Pirates have played a schedule that has prepared them for any style of basketball they could see. As a result, Crane can beat you in a variety of ways. The two things you can always count on with Crane is that the Lady Pirates will pressure you defensively, and that you don’t know which of them will beat you on a given night. The Lady Pirates have five players averaging at least six points per game. That incredible balance makes them difficult to defend on a given night. Lone senior Maggie McMenamy, who leads the team with 12 points and 7 rebounds a night, provides great leadership for the young Lady
Pirates, but is also capable of taking over a game. Her 35 points helped sink Class 5 Parkview, who was the Class 5 – District 12 champions, earlier in the season. Her protégé, freshman Emma Lander, is as equally potent putting up nearly identical numbers (11 ppg, 6rpg).

Pictures: Crane vs. Pierce City - CLICK HERE
Bump in the road – The experience or lack thereof, for Crane could be an issue moving forward. Although the Lady Pirates have handled adversity extremely well throughout the season, this is the biggest stage many of them have played on. The bright lights of Mizzou Arena have a way of bringing out uncharacteristic play.

Pictures: Crane vs. Marionville - CLICK HERE

X – Factor: Guard play – For Crane to bring home a state title, the Lady Pirates will need excellent guard play. In their semifinal matchup with Skyline, the Lady Pirates will see persistent ball pressure. The Lady Tigers will harass them as much as any team they’ve seen this year. Against Walnut Grove, who also likes to trap, Crane did a great job of breaking the press and attacking when the opportunity presented itself. Crane is loaded with guard depth, although the ball usually finds itself in junior Riley Isreal’s hands; she gets plenty of help from the Vaughts (Kylie and Lexie) as well as Allie Hagler. They will all need to handle pressure and be ready to knock down big shots this weekend.

Pictures: Crane vs. Ash Grove - CLICK HERE

What lays ahead: Crane opens with Skyline (25-6) at 1:40 p.m. on Thursday in Columbia at the Hearnes Center. On the other side of the Final Four Marceline (27-3) will hook up with New Haven (20-10).

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