Poplar Bluff wins HealthSouth title in OT

Saturday, December 21, 2002

The fourth-seeded Central Tigers fell four minutes short of their first HealthSouth Holiday Classic girls' basketball title Friday night -- twice.

Still holding a game-long slim lead midway through the fourth quarter, Central had to settle for a four-minute overtime at the Show Me Center.

Striking first in the extra period, the Tigers ultimately fell victim to turnovers and suffered a 39-34 loss to second-seeded Poplar Bluff.

Central came just minutes away from knocking off the top two teams in the SEMO poll on back-to-back nights. Against second-seeded Poplar Bluff (7-2), Central looked intent on making a Xerox copy of Thursday's upset of top-seeded Jackson.

In a tight low-scoring game with Jackson, Central led from wire-to-wire, and it nearly played out again against the Mules.

Anna Brisso gave Central the lead five seconds into the game with a layin off the opening tip and the Tigers, showing determination and grit with a six-player rotation, never trailed until the fourth quarter.

"We had it most of the way," Central senior Alex Wieser said. "Right at the end they got us. We never were able to pull away."

Central (6-4) broke a 7-7 tie with 1:33 left in the first quarter on an Brisso 3-pointer and led until Poplar Bluff's Maggie Welchhance scored off a Frances Kalich feed with 4:01 left in the game.

Central had its biggest lead of the game -- four points -- through most of the second quarter, which ended with the Tigers ahead 21-18. The Tigers nursed a two-point lead through most of the third quarter and took a 28-26 lead into the fourth quarter.

Poplar Bluff continued its shadowing act in the fourth quarter.

"It never really got away from us," Poplar Bluff coach Kirk Chronister said. "We felt like we weren't executing well. I felt if we could get a couple breaks we might get a shot at them."

Megan McDonald, who had a team-high 12 points, put Central ahead 30-26 with 5:36 left in the game, but the Tigers wouldn't score again until the final minute.

Kalich, who had 10 points, hit a 15-footer to close the gap to 30-28 and then fed Welchhance with the game-tying basket. Kalich again fed Welchhance the next trip down the floor for Bluff's first lead, 32-30, with 3:01 left.

Central ultimately broke a string of five scoreless possessions when Anna Brisso scored inside off a baseline inbounds pass with :31 remaining to tie the game 32-32.

The Mules' Nicole Johnson missed on a long 3-point attempt seconds before the buzzer and the teams went into overtime.

Central scored first when McDonald drove the lane and scored on a soft left-handed shot for a 34-32 lead, but it proved the Tigers' last bit of offense. Central turned the ball over on three of its next four possessions.

With the Tigers looking to go ahead by four, Welchhance stole the ball in the frontcourt and tied it 34-34 on a fastbreak layin for the last of her 12 points.

Central made a turnover on its next possession and Kalich, who finished with 10 points, gave the Mules the lead for good with a two free throws with 1:13 left. Johnson added a free throw with :28 left for a 37-34 lead.

Central brought the ball upcourt and called timeout with :20 left, but the ensuing inbounds pass was stolen, sealing the Tigers' fate.

"We were going to go with Megan McDonald for a 3-pointer," Central coach Sheila Midgett said.

Central fouled Johnson, who iced the game with a pair of free throws with :17 left.

"I was pleased with our performance and our ability to control the tempo," Midgett said. "I felt like we played real good defense. The last two minutes we just made more mistakes than they were able to convert."

Wieser finished with 11 points for Central.

The all-tournament team was announced after the game. Members were: Wieser, McDonald, Brisso, Kalich, Tierra Johnson and Omega Key of Poplar Bluff, Jenna Leet of Jackson, April Lorenz of Perryville, Natalie Bess of Farmington and Ashley Millham of Notre Dame.

Jackson 49, Notre Dame 41

Top-seeded Jackson bounced back from its semifinal loss to Central by beating third-seeded Notre Dame in the third-place contest.

The Indians (7-2) were led by Jenna Leet with 20 points. Jessica Koeper added 10.

The Bulldogs (2-6) received 21 points from Ashley Millham.

Jackson, which hit 15 of 16 free throws, opened up a 26-16 halftime lead.

Farmington 54, Dexter 50

Farmington outscored Dexter 19-14 in the fourth quarter to pull out a victory in the fifth-place game as both teams matched their seeding.

Katie Dunlap led Farmington (6-4) with 19 points. Amy Rose had 11 and Hannah Burleson 10.

Dexter (6-2) got 23 points from Natalie Bess and 12 from Jessica Arnold.

Perryville 55, Sparta 50

April Lorenz completed a big tournament for the Pirates, scoring 29 points in leading seventh-seeded Perryville (5-3) to victory in the seventh-place game.

Lorenz, a 6-foot junior, scored 89 points in three tournament games. She was Perryville's lone double-figure scorer against eighth-seeded Sparta.

Liere Dancy led Sparta (6-6) with 19 points and Kasey Claybourn added 12.

After battling the Bulldogs to a 31-31 halftime tie, Perryville moved ahead 42-41 by the close of the third quarter.

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