Jubilation filled the air when the final buzzer sounded and the Purdy Lady Eagles had defeated Fordland 53-47 to advance to the Missouri Class 2 Final Four.
"I can't explain how I feel right now," said Purdy senior guard Brooke Swadley. "This team is so much like a family. We pick each other up when the going gets tough, and we never give up on each other."
Purdy jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game and forced nine Fordland turnovers in the first quarter, which allowed the Lady Eagles to lead 13-7 after one quarter of play.
"Fordland did a wonderful job of slowing the ball down and getting good looks the second and third quarters," said Purdy Head Coach Grant Young. "We knew we were going to have to scrap if we wanted to win."
The Fordland Lady Eagles came out of halftime on fire, going on a 10-1 run in the first three minutes to take a 30-21 lead and forcing Purdy to take a timeout.
"I told our girls not to panic," said Young. "It was only a three-possession lead, and we were going to be okay. I emphasized the importance of picking up our defensive pressure and attacking the rim. All we needed were a couple of stops."
The pep talk worked. Addy Roller hit two 3-pointers and Shelby White sank a short jumper to trim the Fordland lead.
Purdy responded with a 14-6 run and trailed 36-35 at the end of the third quarter.
"Addy (Roller) was the real deal today," said Young. "She sparked our ability to catch up. Shelby White pulled down 12 rebounds, all of which were huge."
Roller and White accounted for 25 of the Lady Eagles' 33 second-half points.
Roller buried four 3-pointers in the second half and connected six times from downtown during the game.
"When we were trailing, coach told us not to panic," said White. "When we started, we knew we weren't going to lose. We haven't reached our goal yet, but we took another step today."
With 5:43 to play, Fordland took its final lead on Megan Claxton's short jumper that made the score 43-42. Purdy's smothering defense would not allow Fordland to score again until there were only 10.7 second left in the game.
Purdy outscored Fordland 13-5 over the last five minutes to salt the game away.
Purdy did struggle in one area, hitting only 10 of 28 free-throw attempts.
"It's a mental thing," said Young. "We shot over 70 percent at the line as a team for the season. We'll be working on it this week."
"It feels good to win," said Purdy sophomore Mattie White. "I am honored to be on a team that has achieved so much this season. Anytime I can contribute to those achievements makes me happy."
Couch, North Platte and Clopton join Purdy in advancing to the state semi-finals on Thursday.
"I am so lucky to have the opportunity to coach these girls," said Young. "We can't become content. We can't settle with just making it to state. We have to focus and gear up for winning state."
Scoring for Purdy were: Roller, 29 points; Shelby White, 14 points; Swadley and Audrey Patton 4 points; and Mattie White, 2 points.
Scoring for Fordland were: Meagan Claxton, 24 points; Brandy Uchtman, 9 points; Taylor Cornelison, 5 points; Destany Haynes, 3 points; Rachel Mertz, 3 points; and Hatti Owens, 3 points.
Purdy takes on Clopton on Thursday in the semi-finals. Tipoff is slated for 8:20 p.m.