The first and last minutes of the Clopton girls basketball team’s game against Paris Friday hardly looked like much of a contest at all.
Certainly not like a final between the one and two seeded teams in their district. Clopton (the one seed, for the record) won the game, and took home the district title, with a decisive final tally of 52-38.
But the rest of the game — most of the game — was closely fought, with Clopton maintaining a lead of only a few points, or no lead at all, over Paris throughout.
“The girls showed a lot of fight to take down a state-ranked Paris team. We had very similar records and the game really could have gone either way. I am so impressed with the grit of our team and their will and desire to fight until the end,” said Clopton Coach Deaven Streed said.
Three minutes into the game, Clopton led 11-4. The lead was built by three three-pointers, two of which were put up by Taylor Akers before Paris had a chance to put anything on the board.
But Paris rallied, and the game was tied at 16 at the end of the first quarter, estabishing the razor thin margin that would separate the two teams for almost the rest of the game. A slow second quarter ended 20-19 with Clopton in front. The third quarter ended with the teams tied again at 30.
Paris’s spirited opposition was not to last.
“We wanted to make a run at the right time. The game was back and forth and everybody was so tight there. I knew [the winner would be] whoever could make that run at the right time in the fourth,” Streed said. Over the course of the fourth quarter Clopton began to pull away.
A basket by Calynn Lockard drew a foul and put Clopton up by three points. Paris barely had a chance to make up the gap before a steal and basket by Kaitlyn Kuntz put the team up by four. Another basket from Jillian Lockard netted a six point lead.
As their lead slipped away into the fourth quarter, Paris began to run into foul trouble in their efforts to get their hands on the ball, giving Clopton a chance to make the most of their time on the foul line.
“We came up huge from the free throw line down the stretch,” Streed said.
The team made 14-of-18 free throws in the fourth quarter, with Akers making 7-of-8 and Kuntz making 6-of- 6.
Over the course of the game, Kaitlyn Kuntz scored 15 points; Taylor Akers scored 13 points; Calynn Lockard scored 11 points; Caragan Lockard scored seven points; Jillian Lockard scored four points; and Megan Harrelson scored two points.
As the team prepares to advance to sectional play, Streed reflected on the support the players on court have received from the stands and the bench.
“I am always so proud of how my bench stays engaged and supportive the entire game. My 6-13 players do so much for us every single day in practice and to have them staying up beat and ready when I call on them each night is something truly special. The district title has a lot to do with the unselfish- ness of all my players and honestly that has meant more to me as a coach then the wins and loses,” Streed said.
“Lastly, we are so grateful for the entire Clopton Community for all their loyalty and support. We were so impressed by the crowd support we had all throughout the dis- trict tournament. We look forward to another big night on Wednesday taking on Knox County in Sectional play.”
Clopton plays Knox County at Hannibal at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Last year, Knox County was in Clopton’s district and lost to the team in the first round. “I know they’ve got a couple really good players, and I’m actually coaching against a former teammate and classmate of my own, [Clopton alumnae] Kelsea Dorsey. So I’ve seen a little bit of them, but I’m definitely going to have to do my homework,” Streed said.
The night of their win in divisional play Streed said she planned to give her players and day off and make a trip to Schuyler County to see Knox County and Scotland County settle their own divisional grudge match.
Knox County, the no. 2 seed in its division, beat Scotland County, the no. 1 seed, 50-34.
Three members of the team were recognized on the all-district team at the end of the game: Jillian Lockard, Kaitlyn Kuntz and Calynn Lockard