Unlike recent outings, Stockton got out of the gate fast, opening up a 16-8 lead late in the first quarter.
The Lady Tigers kept the advantage in the 6-to-12 point range in the middle two periods thanks to solid inside play of sophomore center Jolene Shipps, sophomore guard Sydnee Garrett, and senior forward Kelsi Wilkins.
Pleasant Hope hung tight behind the hot hand of senior guard Kari Hillenburg, who scored 16 of her game-high 23 points in the first half.
Physicality played a role in the outcome as the teams combined for 37 fouls, with each side losing a starter (Garrett for Stockton, senior Catlin Evans for Pleasant Hope) down the stretch.
Stockton coach Kevin Burns said, “I kept telling the girls, when they’re driving in there and putting their head down and going to the rim, they’re trying to get to the foul line and get you in foul trouble. We took three charges tonight.”
The Pirates battled to within two points at 57-55 with under a minute to play when Wilkins corralled the rebound of a critical Pirate free throw on her knees. She would score on the ensuing play to effectively put the game out of reach.
“I was just praying, if she misses this, ‘I swear I’ll get this rebound,’” said a grinning Wilkins afterwards. “And I did, and I was like, ‘yes!’ “
Shipps led Stockton with 18 points, followed by Wilkins with 14, and Garrett with 11. Senior Starla Staffen joined Hillenburg in double figures for the Pirates with 11 points.
Stockton improved to 12-10 overall and 2-3 in the Mid-Lakes Conference. Pleasant Hope dropped to 14-10, 1-4
The Lady Tigers finish the regular season with back-to-back road games next Monday and Tuesday at Fair Grove and Dadeville respectively. They open district play in Butler the following week against the Sherwood Lady Marksmen from Creighton, Mo. The Pirates draw Warsaw in the quarterfinals.
Wilkins added, “I guess on everybody’s mind, it’s like, ‘Can we do it? Are we motivated enough to beat these teams?’ I feel like we are. We’ve got motivation to go on to district.”
Pleasant Hope 11 19 13 15—58
Stockton 19 19 12 12—62
Pleasant Hope: Kari Hillenburg 21, Starla Staffen 11, Kori Hillenburg 8, Catlin Evans 8, Haley Hillenburg 6, Kylie Haraldson 4.
Stockton: Jolene Shipps 18, Kelsi Wilkins 14, Sydnee Garrett 11, Taylor Ewing 9, Bethany Meeks 4, Mati Burns 2, Emilyn Dearman 2, Bree Burns 2.