Clever came to Cass-ville with an impressive 14-3 record and an experienced lineup that featured senior center Michaela Hanafin. After a lackluster 1-2 showing at the Lady Comet Invitational in Marionville last week, the Lady Wildcats faced a monumental task in taking on the Lady Jays.
From the opening tip, the Cassville team played with an extra gear and added confidence. Early in the season, this was a team in search of leadership, a team that showed a reluctance to shoot the ball in pressure situations. On Friday night, the collective will of a team and its coaches overcame those obstacles.
The three-point play was the foundation of a 9-0 run that gave the Lady Wildcats a 14-8 lead. Blisard dribbled intently at the free-throw line, then rose up and nailed a jumper from the elbow. Senior Jaime Everett grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, then poured in a layup with an assist from Katelyn Pitts.
Hanafin scored in the lane to pull Clever within 14-10 as the period ended. A concerned Brandon Weiss huddled with his Lady Jays and went over necessary adjustments. At the other bench, Shore applauded his girls and implored them to maintain the intensity.
Clever opened the second frame with a 10-2 run to retake the lead. Speakman scored in the paint with 7:13 on the clock, and then the Lady Wildcats went scoreless for four minutes as the Lady Jays found a groove. Clever's Bailey Ghan swished a trey from the right corner for the last points of the half and a 25-20 lead for the visitors.
The third quarter belonged to Cassville. Speakman went on a tear, scoring 11 points in the period. Howard added 8, and the Lady Wildcats roared back to lead 39-38 at the final break.
A tense fourth quarter followed. Neither team could lead by more than 3 points, and the free-throw line became a favorite hangout spot as the fouls mounted for both sides. Cassville grabbed the lead for good when Everett smoked a mid-range jumper from the left wing to create a 51-50 score. Everett, the steady senior, scored 10 of her 14 points in the final period.
The Lady Wildcats hit 11 of 17 free-throw attempts in the final eight minutes, and Clever's Maddie Baumann saw her desperation jumper bang off the rim at the buzzer as Cassville secured the 56-54 victory.
"This was a huge spot in our season," said Shore. "I like the way we're playing right now."
The Cassville Lady Wildcats improved to 9-10 with the win, while Clever slipped to 14-4.
Cassville scorers: Emily Speakman, 17; Jaime Everett, 14; Raeghan Blisard, 13; Kennadi Howard, 10; and Kelsey Vollenweider, 2.
Clever scorers: Michaela Hanafin, 17; Maddie Baumann, 13: Jodan Farmer, 11; Bailey Ghan, 9; and Mackenzie Burns, 4.