Chants of "we're number one" from the Purdy student section filled Mizzou Arena in Columbia Saturday night as the Purdy Lady Eagles captured the Missouri Class 2 state championship with a 55-49 win over Couch.
"Our past four of five games, we've been down at some point," said Purdy Head Coach Grant Young, "but it didn't rattle us. Most of the girls and even I sometimes thought I was crazy when we scheduled games against Class 4 and 5 schools earlier this season. Tonight, the lessons we learned from those games paid off."
Nerves affected the Lady Eagles at the start of the game and Purdy quickly fell behind 9-2 and trailed by as many as 8 points in the period.
The Lady Indians connected on their first five 3-point attempts and led 17-12 at the end of the first period.
"I told the girls at the end of the first quarter to be patient and that Couch couldn't keep up the hot shooting from outside," said Young. "If they did, we were going to lose. We did adjust in the second period and closed out on their outside shooters. Couch only made one more 3-pointer and that was in the fourth quarter as time was running out."
The Lady Eagles' adjustment paid dividends as they opened the second quarter with a 13-2 run to take a 27-19 lead.
"Shelby Scott hit two big threes consecutively to give us a lift during our second quarter run," added Young. "Brittany Mareth gave us 17 quality minutes off the bench. Brittany stepped up and played her best defensive game of the season tonight."
Purdy outscored Couch 16-3 in the second quarter to take a 28-20 lead into the intermission.
"I think our hot shooting first quarter led to our dry spell in the second," said Couch Head Coach Cecil Meyer. "We fell in love with the 3-pointer and forgot about trying to work the ball into our post. It was a great game, and someone had to lose. My hat's off to Purdy; they never quit. I am proud of what my kids accomplished this season, and this game doesn't diminish that."
Urged on by their coach's halftime challenge Couch scored 8 straight points to open the third quarter to tie the contest at 28.
"I told the girls at halftime that the first four minutes to the second half would be critical," said Young. "In every game since our district title, we have trailed at some point in the second half, I pleaded with my girls to not let that happen in this game."
"They didn't listen," joked Young. "I guess they like to make it rough on a coach."
The Lady Indians took a 31-30 lead with four and a half minutes remaining in the third period.
Purdy countered with a 3-pointer by Addy Roller, a layup by Audrey Patton, two free throws from Brooke Swadley and a short jumper by Shelby White to take a 39-32 lead with two minute remaining in the third period. Purdy would not trail for the rest of the game.
"Everybody did their part, came out and knew what our goal was," said White, "Our goal at the start of this season was to win this game. It's amazing, we're state champions."
Couch would tie the game at 40 and 45 in the fourth period and trailed 50-44 with 53 seconds remaining.
The Lady Indians then went on a quick 5-1 spurt to close the gap to 51-49 with 18 seconds left and had one last gasp with 14 seconds.
Couch's Crystal Britt was fouled on a rebound and stepped to the free throw line for a one-and-one opportunity and a chance to tie the contest.
Her first offering hit the front iron and bounced off, falling into the outstretched arms of Roller who was promptly fouled.
"Addy told me that that was the hardest she had ever blocked out in her life," said Young.
Roller headed to the line and calmly sank both shots to help seal the victory.
"You're trying to block everything out," Roller said. "It's hard to block it out, but we've shot enough in practice and coach has prepared us be playing in big games that I just felt like if I was going to shoot them, I was going to put them in."
A reflective Young put everything into perspective.
"Coaching these girls has been a special blessing this year," said Young. "Today marks the one year anniversary of my wife being diagnosed with cancer. With everything that has happened over the course of that time frame, these girls have been great, and I feel very blessed."
Roller led the Lady Eagles with 20 points and 4 rebounds. White finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds. Swadley and Shelby Scott chipped in 6 points apiece, and Patton added 4 points.