DeAmbra Pilkinton struggled in the first half of Thursday night’s Mid-Lakes showdown against rival Fair Grove.
“I told her she needed to step it up,” said Fair Grove coach Jenny Talbert.
Pilkinton got the message loud and clear.
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The senior guard scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half to help lead the Lady Eagles to a 57-52 upset victory over visiting Ash Grove, the #2 ranked team in Class 3.
“She is a key player for us. I knew that look in her eye; I knew she was going to step up. She’s a gamer. She wants to win, she’s very competitive, I knew it was only a matter of time before she took over the game,” said Talbert.
Pilkinton’s second half outburst came after a dominate first half by all-state post Morgan Kensinger scored 10 of Fair Grove’s 22 first half points. The senior duo combined to score 30 of the Lady Eagles 57 points. Combined with the rest of the Lady Eagle’s defensive intensity and timely shot-making, it was a total team effort for Fair Grove.
“Morgan is a great player. When Morgan and DeAmbra are playing well, we play pretty well. Morgan had a great game, DeAmbra and the rest of the girls stepped up and helped her in the second half. All of our role players did what they had to do; it was really a great win for us,” said Talbert.
After trailing 30-22 at the break, Fair Grove trailed by as many as 10 before they made the stand their coach was hoping for.
“I thought we didn’t play great in the first half and we talked at halftime and I told them we gotta make a stand of they are going to roll us over. And I thought they did a really good job of stepping up, chipping away at the lead, making big shots, having big stops down the stretch,” said Talbert.
Fair Grove closed the third quarter on an 11-4 run to narrow the deficit to just one heading into the decisive fourth quarter.
Baskets by Kensinger and Pilkinton would put the Lady Eagles ahead for good midway through the fourth, but it was the defense and free-throws of freshman Bailey Weaver that would preserve the game for Fair Grove.
“I thought she did a great job of pressuring Madi Johnson that is a great point guard in our conference and Bailey wore her out. She plays a lot bigger and a lot smarter than a freshman normally does. She stepped up her game and we are really proud of what we are seeing out of her,” said Talbert.
Although tonight was a big win, neither team will get much time to enjoy it. Both Groves are in action in next week’s Pink and White Lady Classic. Ash Grove is the 5-seed and will take on Marshfield next Wednesday in Pink Division play. Fair Grove is unseeded and will matchup with Jacksonville (Ark.) in the first round on the White side of the bracket.
“We have a little bit of information on them, don’t know a lot, but it’ll be good to play a team that we’ve never seen before and we’ll never see again so we’re excited to play someone else but this is a great win heading into that tournament,” said Talbert.
With the win, Fair Grove moves to 6-2, 1-0 in Mid-Lakes play. Ash Grove loses for the first time this season, falling to 8-1, 0-1 in the Mid-Lakes.
Ash Grove 11 19 10 12 - 52
Fair Grove 8 14 17 18 - 57
Ash Grove: Nikki Ogle 14, Jaime Mauss 8, Madi Johnson 6, Halee Cashio 14, Katie Skelton 10.
Fair Grove: DeAmbra Pilkinton 14, Bailey Weaver 10, Morgan Kensinger 16, Shania Hawley 5, Katie Wood 4, Shelby Morrow 8.