McDonald County holds off visiting Nevada to clinch Big 8 West title


By Brennan Stebbins (For

Both McDonald County and Nevada had won 9 of 10 games entering Friday night, so it was little surprise to see them play the bulk of the fourth quarter as a one-possession game.

It was the host Mustangs who seemed to have an answer every time they needed one, though, and McDonald County did enough in the final minute to fend off the visitors 45-40 and clinch the Big 8 West title for the first time.

“Absolutely huge, a huge thing for us,” said Mustangs coach Sean Crane. “We’ve done an excellent job and I’m so proud of them. It wasn’t easy, it was tough for us to get it done but I’m very proud. They stepped up and did a good job.”

McDonald County’s last conference title of any kind in girls basketball was in 2005.

The Mustangs, 17-5, got off to a good start against Nevada, 15-8, which locked up the Big 8 West each of the past two seasons. The Tigers started the game with a four-minute scoring drought and didn’t get on the scoreboard until their seventh possession of the game. They led briefly after three straight 3-pointers made it 9-8, but McDonald County’s Carlie Martin scored 20 seconds later to get the advantage back and the Mustangs didn’t trail again.

McDonald County led 17-12 after a quarter and then held Nevada to just four points in the second frame to lead 25-16 at halftime, with freshman Dakota O’Brien scoring 11 of her 15 points in the first 16 minutes.

Nevada, meanwhile, went into another scoring drought: The Tigers went the final 4:16 of the second quarter without a point, and it took them another two-and-a-half minutes into the third quarter for their first basket of the second half. By then the Mustangs had opened up a 29-16 lead and looked to have the division just about wrapped up. Not so fast, said the Tigers.


Nevada mounted an 18-5 run into the fourth quarter and Clara Swearingen’s driving layup was the finishing touch that tied the game at 34 with 6:20 remaining. And then the Mustangs went scoreless over their next four possessions. But the Tigers’ shooting woes returned, as well, and they never could take the lead again.

Jamie Washam’s layup at the 3:09 mark made it 36-34 McDonald County, then Carlee Cooper made two free throws to extend it to four points. Nevada countered with one of its eight 3-pointers in the game, but Cooper answered with another layup to make it 40-37.

A 3-pointer by Nevada’s Lakyn Applegate made it a 41-40 game in the final minute. Cooper added two free throws with 33 seconds on the clock for a three-point lead, and then O’Brien came up with a big steal. Nevada couldn’t find the net on its final two possessions, and Katelynn Townsend made two freebies with 9.7 seconds remaining to help ice it.

“We stepped up our defense a little bit,” Crane said. “We knew we had the advantage down low. We found a way to get our posts involved and did just enough to get it done. Katelynn Townsend did a great job guarding Clara Swearingen, who’s a heck of a player. Any time you can do that it’s huge. Our whole group did a great job. Carlee Cooper, Carlie Martin – Dakota O’Brien has been under the weather all week and came in and gave us a great effort. You can keep going, the whole group did a great job.”

“The shots didn’t fall there late like we needed them to,” Nevada’s Blake Howarth said. “That was probably the deciding factor, those missed shots. We were getting good looks, it just seemed like we couldn’t see one go through. That was a big deal down the stretch. When we needed a bucket we just couldn’t get one.

“I was proud of our girls, they played hard and competed well,” he said. “Just seemed like with the shots early and then late when we needed a basket, we just couldn’t find one.”

O’Brien led all scorers with her 15 points and Cooper added 10 for the Mustangs while shooting a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Washam had seven points, Martin scored five and Anna Clarkson and Townsend each scored two.

Nevada freshman Lucy Swearingen led the Tigers with a dozen points, all from beyond the arc, and Clara Swearingen scored 11. Applegate added nine, Halle Richmond scored four, Katie Johnson had three and Caylee Holcomb scored one.

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