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March 17, 2011

Clopton's Third Quarter Run Ruins Lady Tigers Upset Bid in State Playoffs

It wasn't the first that Scotland County was looking for. The Lady Tigers hoped to become the only team in the program's history to advance to the Elite 8 in the state playoffs, but #6 ranked Clopton (26-3) instead became the first team to top the 50-point mark against SCR-I all season as the Hawks soared to the 59-41 win to end Scotland County's solid season.

The Lady Tigers were poised for the challenge on Wednesday night in front of a huge crowd at Hannibal High School. SCR-I set the tone early with a pesky 1-3-1 zone defense that forced a series of early Clopton turnovers.

Jamie Shaw scored the first basket of the game on a nice pass from Ashley Tague to send the Lady Tigers faithful into a frenzy.

Clopton settled down on offense and hit back-to-back three pointers as part of an 8-0 run that put SCR-I on its heels.

Courtney Jackson answered with a short jumper before Tague and Megan Creek hit four straight free throws to trim the deficit.

Skyler Alderton tied the game at 10-10 before Jackson connected with a buzzer beater to put SCR-I ahead 12-10 at the end of the first period.

The Lady Hawks continued to connect from behind the arc as Clopton extended the lead to 18-12 early in the second period.

Alderton answered with a three pointer at the 3:51 mark. Buckets from Shaw and Alderton kept SCR-I close, trailing just 23-21 at the intermission.

The senior guard connected again from behind the arc at the 7:03 mark of the third quarter to pull her team within one point.

But that was as close as SCR-I would get. Clopton benefited from halftime adjustments on both ends of the floor to go on a 15-0 run to close out the quarter.

"If you look at our eight losses this season, there was always one quarter that killed us," said Coach Jaryt Hunziker. "We turned the ball over nine times in the third quarter and Clopton just took charge of the game."

Clopton Coach Larry Lagemann tweaked his team's full court pressure coming out of the intermission, instructing his players to trap the ball immediately following the inbounds pass.

SCR-I, without two of its primary ball handlers in Cali Holt and Anna Duley, who were both lost earlier this year to knee injuries, just didn't have an answer for the pressure.

"We were already down two ball handlers, so their pressure really took its toll on us," Hunziker said. "You could just see it in the girls eyes there in the second quarter, they were not only physically tired but the pressure had them mentally drained as well."

The Lady Tigers depleted bench was further hampered by foul trouble. Shaw, Creek and Dale all ultimately fouled out of the contest that saw Clopton make 21 of 27 free throws.

The Lady Hawks led 44-24 early in the fourth period before Tague and Jackson connected on back-to-back three pointers. Tague cut the deficit to 46-32 with 4:06 when she scored over three defenders in the paint on nothing but shear will power.

That was as close as SCR-I could get as Clopton sealed the victory at the free throw line to advance to take on reigning state champions Harrisburg (21-4), a 63-30 winner over Sacred Heart, in the quarter finals in Moberly on Saturday.

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