Marshfield pushed its lead to as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter before staving off a furious Lady Liberator rally in the closing minutes. The Lady Jays held on for a 54-51 victory, and earned a key Central Ozarks Conference Small Division win with the triumph.
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“It was ugly on both ends,” said first-year Marshfield head coach Shelly Jones of the sloppy first-half. “The game was just kind of turnover after turnover, on both sides. Neither of us was getting into a groove with things, and it was all fundamentals for us. And that was probably what I drove home more than anything is just be fundamentally sound. We’ve got to execute, and we’ve been preaching execution all week long. In the fourth quarter, I think we reeled off four plays that we scored on in a row and that’s progress for me to see.”
Marshfield junior standout Lauren Aldridge, who verbally committed to play at Kansas University earlier this week, led the Lady Jays with 20 points, but received plenty of help, as fellow classmates Makenna Smith and Allison VanDiggelen both added eight points apiece. Sophomore Madison Campbell led Bolivar with 12 points, while junior Daiwa Emmert added 11, including a pair of fourth quarter three-pointers to key Bolivar’s rally.
“I think more of what she was saying was just that we need to work harder,” said Aldridge of Coach Jones’ halftime speech. “We made a few adjustments to what we were doing, but we needed to execute, too. We were running a lot of our offense and we weren’t getting what we wanted off of it.”
“They came out and kind of smacked us in the mouth there in the third quarter,” said Bolivar head coach Darin Archer. “That’s where you got to give Marshfield credit. Their girls stepped up and had a point to prove. We dug ourselves a hole. Not necessarily that we dug ourselves a hole, but Marshfield put us behind the eight ball. We had to really scramble throughout the fourth quarter just to make it a ballgame.”
There are no easy road games in the COC Small, and Marshfield had to fight until the final buzzer to earn the victory. The win over Bolivar closed out a stretch which had the Lady Jays playing six of their last seven games on the road, including trips to Class 1 #1 Walnut Grove and Class 4 #2 Republic. Marshfield will return home Monday night to host Hollister after running its COC mark to 2-0 with the win over Bolivar.
“It’s huge,” said Coach Jones of the conference road win. “That’s exactly what I just told the kids, ‘you went on the road and you got a huge win in the COC.’ We know how tough that is, because we’ve been going away and playing the large COC’s, as well, and every game in the COC so far has been on the road. To come in here and beat a really good, solid team…give them credit, they fought until the very end.”
“It’s very, very, very rewarding,” echoed Aldridge on the conference win. “I give a lot of credit to Bolivar, they were a great team. They’re very well-coached, and all of the girls know what they’re doing, so for us to come into their place and get a win, it was very rewarding.”
After missing the beginning of the season with a foot injury, Aldridge is still working toward being 100 percent.
One thing that Aldridge will not have to worry about is where she will play collegiately, as the Lady Jayhawks will be getting one of the Ozarks’ best.
“It’s amazing,” said Aldridge of her verbal commitment to KU. “Just dealing with all the recruiting stuff, it was a weight on me. To get all that off and know where I’m going and start building relationships with the coaches there, it’s very, very nice.”
“Lauren Aldridge is a special player,” said Archer. “I think the thing that Coach Jones is doing with that group, though, is they are a lot more than just a one-man show. They’re well disciplined, they play good defense, and they’re playing pretty good basketball at the right time down the stretch.”
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Bolivar. The Lady Liberators return to action Monday night with a trip to COC rival Buffalo.
“I think there’s a lot we can learn from it, as far as individuals and collectively as a team,” said Archer of the loss. “A couple weeks back, when we were pressured like this, we had a tendency to go away and hide. I felt like we took a positive step in coming back and answering the call. Anytime you’ve got a young group, that’s what you’re looking for. I never take small victories after a loss, but at the same time, I felt like there’s a lot of things we’ve done better and improved upon in the past couple weeks.”
With Districts looming in just three weeks, the Lady Jays will be working on fundamentals. “I think we just got to grow, keep maturing,” said Jones. “Fundamentals are huge. Right now, we’re just throwing the basketball from the side of our hip or we’re not looking before we throw, we’re not squaring up, the little things. That’s kind of a positive for me, because that’s all fixable. We keep growing every game on fixable things.”
Just another ho-hum night in the COC Small.