The Exeter Lady Tigers survived their toughest home challenge of the season and turned back the Purdy Lady Eagles 47-43 on Thursday, Feb. 19. Katie Chadd, Whitney Edie and Kasie Scott, the three Exeter starters honored on senior night, saw their season record improve to 22-1 with the win.
This group of senior girls has posted records of 25-3, 16-8, 22-7 and 22-1 with games still to be played, a composite record of 85-19. The current #2 ranking in Class 1 girls also belongs to the Lady Tigers.
The Purdy Lady Eagles had a plan coming in, and after absorbing everything Exeter threw at them, still had a chance to win or send the game into overtime in the final seconds. The poise of the Lady Tigers in those frantic final moments was a showcase of the maturity level required to win at the state level.
Both teams were tight in the opening minutes, with early jitters leading to turnovers and missed shots. Purdy's Addy Roller finally knocked down a trey, the only score of the first four and a half minutes, and the Lady Eagles led 3-0. Whitney Edie took a charge from Purdy's Shelby White and then scored at the other end on a short jumper in the lane.
After Audrey Patton claimed a rebound and then fed Brooke Swadley for a lay-up and a 5-2 Purdy lead, Destani Stensrud's assist to Edie resulted in a basket and Shelby White's second foul. Edie's free throws ripped through the cords for a 5-5 tie at the 3:38 mark.
Roller banked in a trey from the top of the circle, but Edie rebounded and scored twice in the final minutes to give Exeter a 9-8 lead at the end of a first quarter that saw one tie and three lead changes. Edie's board and bucket at 2:02 was the final score of the quarter, and she sat on the bench for the final minute, collecting air and thoughts.
Roller gave Purdy a brief lead to start the second quarter with a mid-range jumper from the left wing. Edie caught the ball in the paint and was fouled hard by Patton to prevent the easy basket. When Edie hit only one of the two freebies, Purdy was glad for the one foul/one point trade. The swap backfired however, when Patton was whistled for her third foul with 4:30 to play in the second.
Trailing by the game's biggest deficit at 16-12, Purdy cut the lead in half with Shelby White's jumper in the paint. Stensrud matched that with her drive and score, and Jason Cole called a timeout with his Lady Tigers leading 18-14 at 1:53.
Edie responded with a defensive gem, swiping a pass and leading the break. Stensrud collected the late assist and her score ignited the crowd as Exeter assumed a 20-14 advantage. White coolly drained a shot and then guided Roller's arching entry pass that just cleared Edie's fingertips into the basket in the final seconds.
Purdy only trailed 20-18 after a half that plainly belonged to Exeter. The Eagles missed three easy lay-ups, traveled, double dribbled and were plainly intimidated by Edie in Patton's absence. But Exeter failed to exploit their opportunities, and a worried Coach Cole followed his team to the dressing room.
You gotta love Cole. A huge bear of a young man that looks more like an offensive line coach, he has ultimate tunnel vision when it comes to game day.
This contest against conference rival Purdy, on senior night no less, begged for media attention and public scrutiny. Instead of appearing in a dapper suit, Cole took the bench in short sleeves and slacks, a testament in itself to the work ethic that he both demands from, and demonstrates for, his players. Cole is the perfect representative for the Exeter community, a resilient small town with a never-say-die blue collar attitude.
Purdy has its own brand of small town grit, and Coach Kelly George's halftime adjustments led to a quick 4-2 turnaround to reach a 22-22 tie when Patton drained a 15-foot jumper to cash in a fast break opportunity. Exeter responded with a 7-0 run, taking a 29-22 lead when Edie caught and ooped Kasie Scott's airball trey attempt.
White quelled the run with a short jumper, but Nichole O' Neill and Edie hit back-to-back baskets to push the lead to nine at 33-24 at the 3:21 mark. Looking like aa team on the ropes, the Lady Eagles responded swiftly and began working themselves back in the game.
Patton drew a foul on Stensrud and buried the free throws to chip into the lead. Roller smoked consecutive treys for the Lady Eagles, and the lead was down to 33-32 with the 8-0 Purdy run. Patton collected her fourth foul in an encounter with Edie, and Stensrud and White traded baskets for a 35-34 Exeter lead as the quarter ended.
Purdy took the ball on the side to begin an epic fourth quarter. The Lady Eagles deliberately ran their offensive rotation through, and when Edie gambled for a steal, Swadley shocked the crowd with her hesitation dribble and lay-up to give Purdy the lead, 36-35.
Exeter could not respond, and Purdy had possession and the lead with 7:01 to play. Neither team could score as the pressure mounted. Stensrud drove the lane and filled the net, but the basket was erased by her offensive foul. The clock passed the five-minute mark with Purdy clinging to that one-point lead.
Edie skied for a rebound at the defensive end and landed in full attack mode. Her darting eyes processed the gauntlet of players as she raced up the court. Purdy committed the cardinal sin of fast break defense and failed to stop the ballhandler, and Edie's coast-to-coast effort regained the lead for Exeter at 37-36.
Stensrud canned a pair of free throws for the Lady Tigers, and White blocked a shot and went the length of the court for a Purdy lay-up. Edie took over with a pair of baskets, beating the Purdy press for the second, and Exeter lead 43-38 inside of two minutes.
Swadley stepped up and quieted the crowd with a pressure-packed trey. Trailing just 43-41 with 1:34 remaining, Purdy ratcheted up the full court press and caused an Exeter turnover at 1:27. Roller snaked between bodies in the paint for the tying lay-up with exactly a minute to play.
Exeter wasted no time on offense, pouring the ball to Edie on the block. She drew the foul and made the shots to give her team a 45-43 lead with :52 left. Purdy ran the clock down to :17, and Coach George called timeout to set her final strategy.
Purdy spread the floor and passed the ball inside for an isolation play, but the play was swallowed by a trio of Exeter players. Purdy had to foul immediately and Edie went to the line for a one-and-one exercise with six seconds left in the game.
Edie calmly stepped up and banged one off the rim. Purdy snared the rebound, and then Exeter's Shelby Bowman, scoreless on the night, stole the ball from behind and scored at the buzzer to preserve the win.
Edie earned scoring honors with her game high 22 points. Stensrud scored 8, and Katie Chadd added 5 for Exeter. Roller played a gem of a game for Purdy, pouring in 16 points and keeping her team in the game in crucial situations. White scored 12, and Swadley had 9 for the Lady Eagles.
You couldn't ask for a better basketball game. This was not just a great girls basketball game, it was a great game, period. Purdy poured out their collective souls to win and were turned back by perhaps the best team in Ozark 7 Conference history. No shame there, for sure.
Exeter is home free for the Ozark 7 title, but the real work begins in district play, as the Lady Tigers make their push for the hoped-for trip to Columbia.