The Crane Lady Pirates had a bit of a chip on their shoulder coming into this weekend’s Class 2 Final Four in Columbia.
After a controversial buzzer-beating 69-66 win last Saturday the Lady Pirates wanted to prove that they belonged.
“Everyone said that we didn’t deserve to be here because that shot was questionable, but that’s what we talked about before the game with the team was to show them that even if we’re not supposed to be here we’re going to make the most of it,” said junior guard Riley Isreal.
Crane did just that.
The Lady Pirates dismantled Skyline 70-51 Thursday at the Hearnes Center to move on to Saturday’s state championship where they will take on New Haven.
The Lady Pirates, who have just one senior on their roster, weren’t afraid of the lights and came out of the gate ready to play. Freshman Emma Lander, who scored on the Lady Pirates opening possession, led Crane with 18 points. Lander was one of five freshmen who played tonight, tallying 34 of Crane’s 70 points.
“My young girls stepped up in a big way. All season we’ve been preaching you’re no longer freshmen or sophomores, you’re all upper classmen. The two games before this really tested us. It showed our youth, but at the same time it molded us,” said Crane coach Jeremy Mullins.
Lone senior Maggie McMenamy, who finished with 10 points, also knew what the underclassmen were capable of.
“I know they are good. I knew they could come out and play their game and be just as good as the upperclassmen,” said senior Maggie McMenamy.
McMenamy and Lander gave Crane a decisive advantage on the glass throughout the game, helping to lead the bigger, deeper Lady Pirates to a big rebounding advantage.
“The biggest factor in the game was their ability to rebound. We gave up 18 offensive rebounds. When somebody is that is that athletic you can’t give them multiple chances and that was the biggest part of the game. McMenamy and Lander are athletic kids. There was a lot of times we were in position but we didn’t finish the box out and they’d go up and get it,” said Skyline coach Kevin Cheek.
Crane, who finished the game with a 38-22 rebounding advantage, saw the Lady Tigers make a run early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to eight at 50-42. However, like their prior two tournament games, the Lady Pirates responded.
Junior guard Allie Hagler knocked down a pair of jumpers, including a trey, to jump start a 9-0 run to put Skyline away for good.
“I saw this coming. We’ve had some fourth quarter woes these last few games. Allie and Emma some big buckets to get us started, but that three Allie hit was huge for us,” said Mullins.From that point on, it seemed the Lady Tigers had run out of gas and were overmatched by the depth of the Lady Pirates, who used their depth to overwhelm the Lady Tigers.
“We’ve switched it up, sometimes we’ll go one or two spot subs and other times we’ll go all five if I need to make a point. It is such a blessing. We’ve got 14 and all of them can play good minutes if we need them to,” said Mullins.
Skyline was led by junior Ashley Bishop’s 16 points. Sophomore Madisen Brethower, who came in averaging 15 ppg, scored just 11 points in 25 minutes as she battled foul trouble.
Crane will play New Haven in Saturday’s championship game at 5 p.m. in Mizzou Arena. Skyline will battle Marceline, for third place honors Friday night at 5 p.m
Skyline 9-13-18-11 – 51
Crane 13-20-17-20 – 70
Skyline: Bishop 16, Brethower 11, Myers 6, Gideon 6, Beck 8, Carter 2, Johnson 2.
Crane: Hagler 12, L. Vaught 7, Israel 7, Lander 18, McMenamy 10, Moore 2, K. Vaught 2, Mahan 6, Belin 1, Reel 5.
Extended Highlights: Crane 70, Skyline 51