Noun: something that is highly exciting or impressive.
Dictionary.com may want to give an alternate definition of “Walnut Grove versus Crane”
On paper Monday night’s nonconference showdown had all the makings of an epic game.
A pair of state-ranked teams (Walnut Grove #1 in Class 1; Crane #6 in Class 2), big-name players, and aspirations of a trip to Columbia come March.
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Rarely to games of this magnitude live up to the hype…
This wasn’t one of those occasions.
After a back and forth first half that saw the Lady Tigers take a 26-24 lead into the locker room, the Lady Pirates came out of the intermission ready to play.
“I told the girls at halftime that we didn’t hit any shots in the first half. I kept telling them to not rush and the shots will fall.” Said Crane coach Jeremy Mullins.
His squad responded with a 14-5 third quarter advantage, taking the lead and the momentum into the fourth quarter, 38-31.
However, Walnut Grove showed just why they are the top team in Class 1.
Junior standouts, and cousins, Heather and Lexi Harman each tallied an old-fashioned three point play (Lexi missed her free-throw) cutting Crane’s lead to just two points less than a minute in.
Lexi would finish with a game-high 19 points.
Walnut Grove would go on to score four more points, capping a 9-0 run to start the quarter, giving them a 40-38 lead with just four minutes to play.
That’s when Crane’s lone senior did something characteristic of herself.
Shot a 3.
With the defense sagging off her and at the shouts of her teammates, Maggie McMenamy took, and buried, a wing trey, swinging the momentum back to the Lady Pirates for good.
“She’s my go to, she’s my captain, and she is our steadying force. Anytime we need a bucket we go to her,” said Mullins.
McMenamy would finish the game with a team-high 15 points, as Crane would go on to outscore Walnut Grove 14-6 over the game’s final four minutes, handling the Lady Tigers full court pressure and knocking down their free throws to close out the game.
“We worked against a zone press and a man press for the last couple of days in practice. We also pressure a lot in practice which also helped to simulate their pressure. We really focused on breaking the pressure, getting it into their secondary and attacking,” said Mullins.
One glaring omission from Walnut Grove’s box score was 3s. The Lady Tigers, who typically shoot extremely well from deep, hit just three treys collectively. Heather Harman, who earlier this season set a school record with eight 3s in a single game, accounted for just 12 points Monday; none of which came from 3.
“We knew they had a few girls that could really shoot the ball well and we wanted to try to keep them from getting good looks. We went to a zone, which helps against a team like them that likes to penetrate and kick,” said Mullins.
Monday night’s game was Crane’s sixth against a ranked opponent.
“At the beginning of the season we didn’t know what playing this kind of schedule would do to us. As we progressed through the season, we’ve grown as a team and it has made us stronger. Districts is what we had in mind with this tough schedule we made. We knew we were going to be pretty good, so we just wanted to load up because we knew our district was really tough,” said Mullins.