Meadow Heights girls basketball team drops state quarterfinal in double OT

Sunday, March 13, 2011
Meadow Heights' Gina Cureton, center, and her Panthers teammates react to their 59-50 loss to Couch in double overtime of Saturday's Class 2 state quarterfinal in Dexter, Mo. (Kristin Eberts)

DEXTER, Mo. -- The Meadow Heights girls basketball team penciled in a couple different fairytale endings for its Class 2 quarterfinal Saturday.

There was the unsung hero coming up with a clutch shot at the end of regulation and the star player making the type of improbable game-changing play that stars make. There were comebacks and close calls, steals and celebrations.

And then there was heartbreak. Again.

Couch senior Alex Hower erased the Panthers' happy ending with a 3-pointer as time ran out in overtime to tie the game and then made another on her team's first possession in double overtime to help push her team to a 59-50 victory at the Bearcat Event Center.

Meadow Heights (25-4) finished the season one win shy of the final four for a third consecutive year.

The Meadow Heights bench explodes after a basket by Whitney Welker (15) during the first overtime against Couch in Saturday's Class 2 state quarterfinal in Dexter, Mo. (Kristin Eberts)

Meadow Heights junior Whitney Welker made two free throws with 11.3 seconds left in the first overtime to give Meadow Heights a three-point lead before Hower's last-second heroics.

"I think that it brought our momentum down whenever she hit that because we were just thinking, 'OK we're 11 seconds from state, we're almost there, and then we just...," Welker said before stopping mid-sentence.

"She made a big shot."

Welker, a standout post player, had given her team its first lead since the third quarter with 35 seconds left in the first overtime.

Meadow Heights trailed 42-41 with the clock ticking down to 30 seconds left in the first extra session. Couch was in possession when Welker forced a turnover at midcourt, grabbed the loose ball and raced to the other end for a basket.

Meadow Heights' Erin Bollmann struggles to get up a shot between Couch's Crystal Britt, left, and Elizabeth Nessling during the first quarter Saturday.

"I just reacted," Welker said. "I didn't think. I just thought, 'OK, I know that we're going hot defense, so I just need to go up there and trap. And I just jumped with it. I don't have very good jumping skills, but somehow I just got a hand on it."

Welker, who was fouled on the play, grabbed a teammate in excitement and jumped up and down on the court before sinking the free throw.

The Panthers won the tip in double overtime, but turned over the ball after a possession that lasted more than a minute.

"We were trying to be patient and just keep moving until we got a good open look," Meadow Heights coach Mitch Nanney said. "That took a while so we had to be more patient."

Hower, who finished with a game-high 27 points, made a 3-pointer 15 seconds later, and Couch went 10 for 10 from the free-throw line the rest of the way to protect its lead.

Meadow Heights' Taylor Cureton, left, and Gina Cureton defend Couch's Alex Hower during double overtime Saturday.

"It's really hard," Nanney said. "Unfortunately, like I told them in the locker room, there's a lot of worse things going on in the world right now than losing this. It hurts right now, but there's a ton of things going on and everybody's proud of what you did."

Couch took a 39-36 lead with two minutes left in regulation after making both free throws resulting from senior starter Heather Dietiker's fifth foul.

"It takes some leadership off the floor because she brings leadership and defense and she's an all-around good player, so everyone else has to step and compensate for the loss whenever she's gone," Welker said.

Couch missed the front end of three 1-and-1 opportunities, and the Panthers missed two 3-point shots before light-scoring senior Mica Morse tied the game with a 3-pointer.

"To be honest, I wanted to watch, pretty much watch because that's how nervous I was," Morse said about her early game jitters Saturday. "When coach put me in, he's like, 'You're going to get a shot here,' and I was like, 'What?' He's was like, 'Yep,' so that's what I did.

Meadow Heights' Whitney Welker puts up a shot as Couch's Lauren Bess watches during the fourth quarter Saturday.

"When it went in, I was completely shocked because it didn't feel right. It didn't feel like it was going in."

Meadow Heights' defense prevented a winning basket for Couch at the end of regulation as its fans chanted "all the way" in the stands, a team motto the big Meadow Heights' crowd yelled often.

"I know that Mica's a really good 3-point shooter, but she doesn't normally shoot a lot," Welker said. "She has a good percentage, but whenever she made that, it was just unexpected, so I was just like, 'Oh my gosh.'"

Welker led Meadow Heights with 19 points while junior Erin Bollmann finished with 14.

Five seniors played their final game for the Panthers on Saturday.

Meadow Heights' Heather Dietiker makes a pass around Couch's Crystal Britt during the third quarter of a Class 2 State Quarterfinal game on Saturday, March 12, 2011, in Dexter, Mo. Meadow Heights lost 50-59 in double overtime. (Kristin Eberts)

"These kids here, the seniors that walk out have won 80 games in their career," Nanney said. "They've represented their community well, they've represented themselves well, their school -- they've done everybody proud. Three of them go on to play college ball next year, and they'll do us all proud there, too."

Dietiker and Gina Cureton scored six points each and Hattie Cook scored two. All played roles in Meadow Heights' success each of the past three seasons along with classmates Morse and Jillian Mills.

"I just think that we've been here three times and we didn't want to let anybody down again, and so I think our nerves were just going too much," Dietiker said.

"I think we could've played better this game, but I am proud of our overall season."

Meadow Hts51831374--50

MEADOW HEIGHTS (50) -- Mica Morse 3, Hattie Cook 2, Gina Cureton 6, Erin Bollmann 14, Heather Dietiker 6, Whitney Welker 19. FG 18, FT 11-18, F 20. (3-pointers: Morse 1, Dietiker 2. Fouled out: Dietiker, Cureton)

COUCH (59) -- Sarah Neptune 13, Jordon Hale 8, Alex Hower 27, Cassie Roberts 6, Elizabeth Nessling 5. FG 18, FT 19-27, F 16. (3-pointers: Hale 2, Hower 2. Fouled out: none)

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