On Monday, Dec. 21 at Crane, as the girls basketball game hit the 5:00 mark of the fourth quarter with the Ladycats leading by a comfortable dozen at 36-24, a number of sports clichés came to mind. Probably the one that Chris Shore did not want to hear was, "It ain't over till it's over."
Crane's starting guards, Roxie Vaught and Alyssa Chastain, who had scored only 6 points between them in 31 minutes of action, nailed three-pointers on three consecutive possessions to turn a laugher into a nailbiter in the final four minutes. Cassville was fortunate to survive the sudden change of momentum and headed for the bus with a 38-34 victory.
"We got a win," said Shore, just happy to escape the confines of the tiny Crane High School gym where a couple hundred fans project the ferocity of a thousand.
The first half was a parched desert in the oasis of scoring. The teams struggled to a 3-3 tie after six and a half minutes of play. Hannah Elkins and Marti Richmiller scored back-to-back hoops to give Cassville a 7-3 advantage, but the quarter ended with Crane's Kelsey Steele scoring at the buzzer and drawing a foul from Sara Byler. Steele's free throw cut the lead to 9-8 for the Ladycats.
The second period continued in the same vein. The only lights moving on the scoreboard for minutes at a time were those counting down on the timepiece. Elkins scored twice more in the period, but Crane's 6'0" center Laken Walden put in three baskets of her own to build a 17-13 lead for the home team.
Richmiller stopped and popped on a drive to cut the lead to 17-15, and then Gail Edie tied the game at 17-17 when she rebounded Richmiller's fast-break miss and scored with 2:22 left in the half. Neither team found the basket after that, and the half ended with the score tied.
Cassville laid back in their tight zone throughout the first half, protecting the lane against Walden and Steele. Crane still found a majority of the rebounds, turning three offensive boards into second-chance points. But a dozen first-half turnovers plagued the run-and-gun offense of the Lady Pirates.
Cassville shocked Crane with an 11-0 run to start the third quarter. After scoring only 17 points in the entire first half, the Ladycats hit four field goals and three free throws in the initial 3:17 of the third quarter to open a 28-17 lead. Lindsey Turner snared an offensive board and scored as did Edie. Richmiller and Elkins also scored in the run, and both put up 6 points in the period.
Crane's offensive woes continued to the point of becoming contagious. The Lady Pirates committed eight turnovers in the third quarter, and the Ladycats chimed in with seven of their own.
Elkins swished a jumper from the right wing with :09 on the clock to give Cassville a 34-24 lead at the last break.
The nightmare final period started with another Richmiller steal, and she fed Kennadi Howard a late assist for the layup at 7:20. Cassville would not score again until the final minute as Crane went on a 10-0 run.
But six more Crane turnovers in the final eight minutes doomed the comeback effort.
Unofficially, the Lady Pirates lost the ball 26 times on unforced errors and Cassville steals, several by Richmiller in critical moments.
"Marti played really well," said Shore. "She hit some big baskets and made key steals for us all night.
"They killed us on the boards in the first half, but we did a lot better job of rebounding in the second half," Shore emphasized.
Scoring for Cassville were: Elkins 14; Richmiller 10; Edie 7; Howard 4; Turner 2; and Jamie Everett 1.