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Lady Cats Punch Their Ticket to The Final Four

Photo by Shari Harris
The Lady ‘Cats bust into the final four with a win against Saxony Lutheran. Their biggest fan is in the background.
By Steven Rissler
Sectionals
  The Licking Lady Wildcats made the 2.5-hour trek to Dexter on Wed., Feb. 27 to face the District 1 champion, New Madrid County Central Lady Eagles. NMCC came into the sectional round ranked eighth in the state with a  record of 25 win and 2 losses. Licking started the game in their 1-3-1 zone, but after back-to-back offensive rebounds and easy put backs, the Lady ‘Cats went to a packed-in 2-3 zone. The Lady Eagles briefly held a 4-1 lead, but three 3s from Karlee Holland and a corner 3 from Anna Sullins got Licking the lead back, and they kept it the rest of the game. 
  The Lady Cats led by 5 after the first quarter at 17-12. Tough-nosed rebounding in the second teamed with 9 more points for Holland saw the Lady Cats lead 27-17 at the intermission. Coach Rissler knew that NMCC had used a box and one defense multiple times throughout the season and the Lady Cats were ready for it in the third quarter. Sure enough, the Lady Eagles came out in a box and 1, face guarding Holland all over the floor. The overall athleticism of NMCC started to get to the Lady Cats early in the third. Several turnovers in a row allowed the Lady Eagles to cut the lead to 33-30 and forced Coach Rissler to use a time out. Kylie Taylor answered the challenge with back-to-back 3s and a breakaway layup that swelled the lead back to double digits. Licking led 49-36 with one quarter to play. Licking went into their slow down game to start the fourth quarter. NMCC was forced to come out of their junk defense and play super-aggressive man. Licking switched to their 3-man dribble weave offense and Holland went to town. Five layups and three free throws in the fourth brought Holland’s point total to 39 for the game and helped seal the 72-50 victory.
  Holland led with a career high and possible school record 39 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Taylor added 13 points, 5 steals and 4 rebounds. Abby Moncrief added 6 points. Sullins had 4 points, 4 rebs and 3 steals. Kiley Ingram added 4 points, Lainy Hadix 2 points, Lexi Hadix 2 points, Tomi Rose 1 point, and Athena Hood 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
  “We traveled a long way for this game and we weren’t going back home without a W. Karlee did the scoring tonight and the other girls crashed the glass like maniacs. Everyone had a job tonight and all the girls did their job.” Coach Rissler
Photo By Shari Harris
Holland closes her eyes as hands swing toward her, yet goes on to make this left hand layup against Saxony Lutheran.

Quarter Finals
  Licking traveled to the Farmington Civic Center on Sat. to face the (23-7) Saxony Lutheran Lady Crusaders with a spot in the Final Four on the line. Excitement was high to start the game and Licking came out firing from deep. Back to back corner 3s from Karlee Holland, a put back from Anna Sullins and a post shot from Abby Moncrief had Licking out 10-4, and Saxony took an early 30-second timeout. The timeout settled the Crusaders down and they got the ball into the post for some easy buckets. Licking held a slight 12-11 lead after the first quarter. Licking went cold in the second quarter from the floor as the girls only managed 8 points to Saxony’s 13 points. Licking headed into halftime down 24-20. The Lady ‘Cats increased their defensive intensity in the third quarter and caused several Saxony turnovers. A corner 3 by Sullins got the offensive gears rolling. Holland scored 12 in the quarter off dribble drives and getting to the free throw line. An off-balance, one-footer by Lainy Hadix at the buzzer gave Licking a 42-38 lead with only 8 minutes to play. The fourth quarter was a roller coaster for both teams. Licking pushed the lead to 9 behind three buckets by Moncrief with less than 4 minutes to play. Saxony would then go into desperation mode. Offensive rebounds, turnovers, a few phantom calls and four three-pointers plagued the Lady ‘Cats late in the fourth. The score was tied with 20 seconds to play. Licking held for the last shot that eventually missed, so we headed to OVERTIME. Momentum was definitely on the Saxony side, but after two empty possessions by each team, Kylie Taylor got a steal and was fouled on a layup attempt. She made one of two free throws to give Licking the lead back for good this time. Crunch time rebounding and clutch free throw shooting by Holland, Taylor and Moncrief pushed Licking’s lead to 9 before Saxony would score their only points in OT on a three-pointer. Two more free throws from Taylor would set the final score at 65-57. The Licking Lady Wildcats finally broke through and advanced to the Final Four for the first time in girls’ basketball history.
  Holland led with 33 points and 9 rebounds. Moncrief scored 14 points and grabbed 9 boards. Sullins scored 6. Taylor added 5 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, Lexi Hadix had 3 points and 4 rebounds, Kiley Ingram and Lainy Hadix each had 2 points.
  “This was a huge game for our community and our basketball program. I’m so happy for the girls. All the hard work and sacrifices they have made throughout their lives for basketball have been for this dream of making it to the Final Four. I am happy to be a part of all of this and see the happiness and excitement the girls have brought to Licking.” Coach Rissler
  Licking plays Lutheran North on Thu. at 6:50 p.m. in the JQH arena in Springfield.

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