By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After some brief criticism, Lakeland coach Justen Cooper reminded his players of prior history.
On Saturday in the Class 1 quarterfinals at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, undefeated Lakeland was staring at a 38-32 deficit entering the fourth quarter.
Weaubleau’s Elizabeth Stewart had just drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close the third quarter and ignite the Weaubleau fan base.
But Lakeland had been in a similar situation against this same opponent.
“After I got through with some chewing, I reminded them the last time we played (Weaubleau) that we were down seven with two minutes to go and still won,” Cooper said. “Six points is nothing. Just go out and make your run and everything will be OK.”
Turns out, everything was OK.
Lakeland held Weaubleau to just one field goal in the fourth quarter and outscored the Lady Tigers 16-7 overall. The Lady Vikings prevailed, 48-45, and are headed to state for the first time in school history – in boys’ or girls’ basketball.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Lakeland senior Tracy Munsterman. “It’s like the best thing we could’ve asked for this season. Going into it, we did not think it was going to be like this.”
Lakeland (30-0 overall) faces another Polk County League team next week. The Lady Vikings meet Walnut Grove (26-5 overall) in the semifinals at 6:20 p.m. Friday at Hammons Student Center in Springfield.
It’s another piece to a historic season for the Lady Vikings. Last week, they won the first district basketball championship in program history with a 64-35 win over Rich Hill.
“That meant a lot to us. But obviously, this is the end-all of high school basketball: the final four,” Cooper said. “I couldn’t be a happier man right now.”
So, what was said in the team huddle heading into the fourth quarter?
“(Coach) Cooper said, ‘Don’t be babies. Suck it up,’” Munsterman said. “He challenged us. This was our challenge.”
In a game of runs, Lakeland made the last one.
The Lady Vikings countered Weaubleau’s 10-1 run that ended the third quarter with a 10-1 run of their own.
Back-to-back baskets from senior Annie Swaters gave Lakeland a 42-39 lead it would not relinquish. Swaters, a 5’11” center, scored a game-high 19.
Lakeland had a chance to seal the win with under 30 seconds remaining, but missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Weaubleau missed a potential tying 3-pointer and an ensuing putback before time expired.
“I didn’t hear the buzzer go off because I was still on the floor,” Munsterman said. “All of a sudden, everyone was running and I was like, ‘Wow, we’re going to state.’ It was pretty crazy.”
The outcome marked Lakeland’s third win over Weaubleau this season. The Lady Vikings blew out Weaubleau in their season opener in mid-November, then slipped by the Lady Tigers 51-50 to win the Osceola Invitational on Jan. 26.
On Saturday, Lakeland used a second-quarter surge (18-9) to lead 25-17 at halftime. Weaubleau then outscored Lakeland 21-7 in the third.
Like Lakeland, Weaubleau was also seeking its first trip to the final four in program history. The Lady Tigers graduate a three-player senior class.
Lakeland 48, Weableau 45
Weaubleau 8 9 21 7 — 45
Lakeland 7 18 7 16 – 48
Weaubleau (24-6 overall) – Makayla Hostettler 14, Anna Ginnings 11, Karen Reed 6, Elizabeth Stewart 4, Danni Stewart 4, Jennica Daggett 4
Lakeland (30-0 overall) – Annie Swaters 19, Madison Thompson 11, Courtny Walters 6, Ryan Landes 6, Trac