By MATT PIKE
St. Joseph Post
Gower, MO - It wasn't easy, but the East Buchanan girls' basketball team secured their 12th win of the season on Tuesday night in Gower. The Bulldogs took on a tough defensive Maryville team, and came away with a 49-46 victory.
Bulldogs Head Coach Cori Elms says she thought that both teams played incredibly hard on the night.
"We always talk about making sure that we have teams like Maryville on our schedule so that we can prepare ourselves for the playoffs, just the physicality, the athleticism, and just the pressure that they put on us, " Elms tells KFEQ/St. Joseph Post.
"Just to be able to have different options to score that's something that we needed to be able to see, so I was proud of our team defense and just being able to attack, and we had a lot of young ladies step up offensively."
The game started off pretty smoothly for the Lady Bulldogs. Junior Angelina Engnes hit two early three-point shots, and Junior Hilarry Elifrits also hit one to help the East Buchanan to an early 15-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.
But the Spoofhounds would storm back in the second, outscoring the Bulldogs 15-7, largely thanks to Sophomore Jalea Price's five points, and at halftime, East Buchanan held a slim 22-19 lead.
There was a rare sight this season for Bulldogs fans at halftime when they looked at the scoreboard- the number zero next to Senior Gracie Kelsey's name. Kelsey says Maryville's defense did a good job of defending her, but commended her teammates for the way they stepped up.
"They were running such a good defense and had other people step up and score big buckets for us," Kelsey says. "Gina and Hilarry hit some big-time threes, and then Brookie J (Freshman Brooklynn Johnson) came in and got a good rebound that we really needed and we were able to secure it and get free throws off it, so other people were able to step up and do their job when I couldn't."
A rough first half didn't deter Kelsey, though. She came out scoring fast and furious in the second half, quickly scoring seven points. Yet, the Spoofhounds wouldn't go away, keeping it close, thanks to seven points from Senior Rylee Vierthaler. But at the end of the third, the Bulldogs still led 36-33.
The final frame got even more interesting. Elifrits would open the scoring in the quarter for the Bulldogs hitting a big three, immediately prompting a Spoofhoud timeout with 6:16 left in the game. Out of the timeout, Maryville looked unstoppable, scratching and clawing even closer, trailing just by one point with 2:21 left in the game.
East Buchanan still held a 48-46 lead with 16.7 seconds left. Out of a Maryville timeout, the ball would go back to the Bulldogs with 9.7 seconds left and a home crowd in Gower growing increasingly loud.
After a Bulldogs timeout, Kelsey got fouled and was sent to the line, converting one free throw and pushing the lead to 49-46.
East Buchanan was led in scoring by Kelsey, who in the second half alone scored 15 points, while Elifrits scored 13. Price led the Spoofhounds in scoring with 13. Senior Anastyn Pettlon added 12.
Coach Elms says she was glad to see other girls step up on the offensive side of the ball, especially in a time when everyone is focused on Kelsey.
"You know ,they do kind of take that a little personal for good reason, but also when you have a player like Gracie that's drawing that much attention, you have to have other young ladies that are willing to take shots and getting them to be willing to take those shots is something we've had to focus on," Elms says. "And so, Gina hitting those two threes early in the game, really for her to hit those was huge for us."
The Lady Bulldogs are now 12-1 on the season with their only loss coming to Lathrop in the KCI Tournament, which they avenged just a month later beating the Lady Mules 42-35 last week. East Buchanan is also 4-0 on the season against Class 4 opponents with wins over Cameron, St. Pius X and Savannah as well.
Elms says while they don't pay attention to what class an opponent is in; she knows winning those games is very important.
"We're not necessarily worried about class size we're playing, what we're worried about is are things that we're doing to prepare ourselves for the playoffs," Elms says. "And so, that's really important to us as we look at our district our district has a lot of teams in it, it could go a lot of different directions, so we have to do everything we can to be able to match the physicality, match the athleticism, and try to play both ends of the floor."
The Lady Bulldogs will be back in action next Thursday, against another Class 4 opponent, as they travel to Chillicothe.