Looking right at home on Missouri S&T’s court, Skyler Beeson held the Eagles together in the first half and 23 points overall, led SoBoCo into the next round of the state basketball playoffs with a 57-44 win over Licking on Wednesday evening.
Beeson, who scored 15 points in the first half, will play for the Miners next year in Rolla and will lead the Eagles into Springfield on Saturday for a quarter-final matchup with the defending state champions and No. 1 Strafford Indians.
If the Eagles were looking forward to a quarter-final re-match with Strafford, Licking got their attention early.
The Ladycats hit four 3-point shots in the first quarter and raced out to a 21-12 lead.
“We were not pressing the ball, had our arms down and allowing them open shots,” said SoBoCo coach Tony Phillips.
Beeson said the Eagles were a little frustrated, but that pushed them to play harder.
“We felt a sense of ‘let’s kick this in,’” Beeson said. “We knew we had to buckle down.”
The Eagles only allowed Licking to score eight points in the second quarter, but missed a number of opportunities to take the lead before halftime.
Trailing 26-29 at halftime, SoBoCo got five point from Faryn Griffin in the third quarter and a steal by Meagan Barnett, who fed Kylie Shoot for the layup. When Shoot hit the bonus free throw at 1:15 left in the third period, the Eagles had their first lead at 36-35.
They built on that lead and dominated the fourth quarter with the defense that put a noose around St. James in the district championship. SoBoCo gave up 21 points in the first quarter, but only 23 points the rest of the game.
“We have to put pressure on the ball and when we do that, we’re a different team,” Phillips said. “What turned the game around was Emma (Anderson) and Faryn drawing some charges on the defensive end and giving us a chance to get a lead.”
The Eagles out-pointed the Ladycats 17-9 in the fourth period, running right past the wilting Licking offense.
Shoot was perfect from the free throw line, going 5-5 on her way to 11 points, Carrie Poder hit a short jumper and Barnett converted a traditional 3-point play as the Eagles broke the game open at 49-36 with 4:22 to play.
It was what Phillips termed an “ugly” win, but also “bittersweet.”
“We love those guys,” Phillips said of the Eagles boys team. “It is hard for us to celebrate. I wasn’t real excited to play this game after their loss, the girls were a little the same way.”
However, the Eagles won their third straight Sectional game and will face Strafford on Saturday at Drury University in Springfield.
“They are unbeaten and the defending champs,” Phillips said. “They are very talented, but they have a lot of pressure on them to play.”
Mountain Grove 72 SoBoCo 68
The Eagles boys saw their season come to an end as their offense fell apart in the final six minutes of their Sectional game with the Mountain Grove Panthers.
The Eagles owned a 65-57 lead with six minutes to play, but could not muster another field goal until less than a minute to play and the Panthers had the lead.
The offensive drought was mystifying to players, fans and Eagles coaches.
“We had great opportunities and didn’t finish,” said Eagles coach Andy Jahnsen. “You have to hit shots down the stretch. Our kids played their tails off and you have to give Mountain Grove credit they hit a lot of shots. It’s just one of those things that goes one way or the other.”
SoBoCo built their lead behind Sam Stichnote’s layups and a 3-pointer by Zane Safely. Holding an 8-point lead with six minutes left, the Panthers called a time out, but didn’t change their offense or defense, they continued to attack the basket – and the Eagles could not get shots to fall.
A Stichnote layup bounced around the iron and fell out, a Maguire Scheer 3-pointer hit the top of the rim, a fell out and a pair of put-backs off offensive rebounds rolled around the rim and fell out. Mountain Grove took advantage by getting a 3-pointer by Cade Coffman and a pair of baskets inside the paint. When Safely fouled out with 53 seconds left, the Panthers took a 68-66 lead.
Stichnote then missed a jumper, but the Eagles got the offensive rebound and called time out with 14 seconds left. Off a set play, Scheer lofted another 3-pointer, but it fell off the rim.
The two teams dualed throughout a close first half, with the Eagles owning a 16-13 first quarter lead and a 32-29 halftime lead. The Panthers made a third quarter run, taking a 39-38 lead, but the Eagles roared back with a 3-pointer by Scheer, layups by Colin Vaughan and Stichnote and a pair of shots by Safely. The Eagles owned a 59-55 lead after three periods, but could not hold their lead in the final six minutes.
SoBoCo was led by Stichnote’s 17 points and Safely with 16 points. The two teams were nearly even in rebounds (Mountain Grove had 27, SoBoCo 24) and turnovers (SoBoCo 9 MG 8).
The Eagles ended their historic season with a 25-4 record and tournament championships in the Tri-County Conference Tournament, the California Tournament, the Southern Boone Classic Tournament and the District 9 Tournament.