By Ron Schott
The Clopton Lady Hawks’ dynasty continued last Saturday in Moberly when the girls basketball team punched their ticket to the Class 2 Final Four with a 42-36 overtime win over Northeast-Cairo in the state quarterfinals.
This week’s state appearance is the program’s eighth in the past 16 years.
In fact, fans of the program claim that every Clopton girl basketball player who has played all four years of high school since 2003 has made an appearance in the Final Four.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” said Clopton head coach Deaven Streed.
“…I’ve said it before but really cannot give enough credit to the way my girls can rally and persevere through adversity. My starters give quality minutes each night. Every game typically brings a new leading scorer making us difficult to match up with. My bench is a main factor in our success as well. Kids that don’t see the floor play such an instrumental role for us each day in practice. They also manage to stay completely engaged in every game and they play just a vital role in our team camaraderie. I am so impressed at how well this team perseveres throughout games and never throws in the towels even when things don’t look the best. The girls are so excited about their trip to the Final Four and I could not be more excited that they will have such a memorable experience in their high school sports career. It really is something truly special and our community has been so extremely supportive of this team. We are truly grateful for that.”
Streed said she is excited to make it to state as a coach as she has made it to state as a player in the past.
She is hoping some of the state coaching success rubs off from her husband Dean Streed as he recently won back-to-back state championships as Bowling Green’s softball coach.
On Friday, March 8, the Lady Hawks will play in the state semifinals against 28-3 Thayer at 6:20 p.m. at the JQH Arena on the campus of Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo.
With a win, they will play for a title on Saturday, March 9 at 4:30 p.m. at JQH Arena against either Hartville (27-4) or Mid-Buchanan (25-5).
A loss puts them in the third place game at 12:50 p.m. inside the Hammons Student Center.
In their quarterfinals game against a strong Cairo squad, it was a battle of solid defensive play from both teams.
Both quaterfinals opponents combined to make just 23-of-94 shots from the field through the five quarters of play.
In the first quarter, Jillian Lockard’s hit a big three-pointer and scored five points to help the Lady Hawks take an 11-9 lead.
Clopton did a good job of getting to the free throw line in the second quarter. The Lady Hawks went 4-for-6 from the line in a low scoring quarter.
Caragan Lockard scored at the buzzer as Clopton entered halftime down by one.
Both teams combined to make just 12-of-45 shots from the field in the first half.
Early in the third quarter, Jillian Lockard quickly picked up her third and fourth fouls, forcing her to leave them game down by one point.
Cairo made a 5-0 run to go up by three before Kaitlyn Kuntz made two big three-pointers.
Down one entering the fourth, Taylor Akers made an early three-pointer to put Clopton back on top 28-26.
Cairo opened up a four point lead with 2:59 left in the game when a Jillian Lockard basket was followed by Kuntz’s steal.
Jillian Lockard was then fouled and she made both free throws to tie the game with 1:46 left.
Unfortunately, she would foul out of the game on a play away from the ball just :36 seconds later.
Cairo standout player Mackenzie Dubbert missed the free throw.
After dribbling :60 seconds off the clock, Akers missed a shot with 3.1 seconds remaining.
Cairo was unable to do much after that, sending the game into overtime.
In overtime, Clopton’s Calynn Lockard fouled out of the game.
While Cairo fans thought having two major Clopton scorers foul out of the game was going to be all their team needed, little did they know this group of Lady Hawks have played without some key players due to injuries earlier in the season.
Rising to the occasion this time was Megan Harrelson.
She first picked up a steal and coverted a three-point play to turn a one point deficit into a three point lead.
“This was the turning point in overtime, which led us to close out this game,” Streed noted.
She later added two free throws as she scored five of the team’s eight points in the quarter.
Kuntz made three free throws, as her final one with 15.8 seconds left gave their team a 42-36 lead and eventual win.
Clopton’s defense forced Cairo to miss all five of their shots from the field in overtime.
The Bearcats also made just 2-of-6 free throws while Clopton made 6-of-8.
“Taylor Akers and Kaitlyn Kuntz both had huge games defensively taking on the task of shutting down Cairo’s best offensive players,” Streed said. “They also played a big role offensively keeping he game close in the third quarter when Jillian was on the bench with four fouls.”
Kuntz led the team with 10 points, five rebounds, five steals, and four assists.
Jillian Lockard added 10 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block.
Akers added seven points, two assists, and one rebound; Calynn Lockard added six points, five rebounds, three steals, and one assist; Harrelson added five points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block; Caragan Lockard had two points, seven rebounds, and three steals; and Mary Margaret Garrett had two points and two rebounds.
The game was played at Moberly Area Community College.
In the sectional round, the Lady Hawks battled a tough Knox County squad and knocked them off, 51-37.
Clopton took an 11-3 first quarter lead. Up seven at halftime, the Lady Hawks then outscored Knox County 29-25 in the second half to hold on for the win.
Kuntz led the team with 13 points while Jillian Lockard had 11 points in the win. The game was played at Hannibal High School.