Purdy has dominated the Ozark 7 this year. The Lady Eagles defeated Exeter 52-27 in a game played at Drury University, destroyed McAuley by a score of 72-13, beat Southwest 61-50, downed Wheaton 68-22, and doubled up Verona in a 66-32 win to reach 5-0 in conference play prior to Friday's rematch against Southwest.
Halfway through the Ozark 7 schedule, only the Lady Trojans had played within 25 points of the defending Class 2 state champions. No one in the conference was prepared to say that Southwest would beat Purdy, but the consensus opinion was that they were the only team that could.
With mounting foul trouble in the second quarter, Southwest's Steve Rissler switched to a box-and-one defense to protect his interior players while keeping Ickes manned up on Roller.
Ickes stunned the Purdy defense with a trey to begin the period, and Southwest moved in front, 16-14. Mattie White scored in the post for Purdy, and the score was tied at 16-16. White and Southwest's Taylor Mettlach traded buckets in the paint as the score reached 20-20, but freshman Billie House nailed a trey as the Lady Eagles took a 27-21 halftime lead.
Purdy inbounded the ball to start the third quarter, and Roller pulled up just outside the arc and swished a three-pointer to open a nine-point lead at 30-21. Neill rained in a trey on Purdy's next possession, and the lead grew to 33-21.
The Lady Eagles led by 15 with 3:10 left in the third quarter as the score reached 39-24, and the crowd intensity faded. But the Lady Trojans were not done. Cady Swindle connected on a pair of free throws, and then Ickes, Mettlach and Mitchell all scored in the final two minutes as Southwest fashioned a 10-4 run. Rissler's team fought back to trail at the final break by only 43-34.
Swindle hit four times from the free-throw line to start the last period, and then Ickes scored with an offensive board to pull Southwest within 46-40 at the 4:11 mark. Then Montana Hendrix scoped in a long trey from the right wing, and the Lady Trojans had cut it to a one-possession game at 46-43. Roller hit the first of a pair of free throws for Purdy, and Mitchell answered with a jumper in the lane to create a 47-45 score with 3:06 remaining.
A calm Grant Young laid out the final-quarter plan for the Lady Eagles from the bench. It was the same strategy that Purdy has used so well this season: ride the big horse.
With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, the ball belongs to Roller. The senior icon of the Purdy team, Roller relishes the responsibility of having the ball and the game in her hands. The All-Stater knows how to create contact and get to the free-throw line. Her charity tosses are effortless and deadly. Sometimes it seems like she shoots with her eyes closed. Going into Friday's game, Roller had connected on 120 of 138 attempts from the line.
Roller calmly swished six consecutive free throws down the stretch to put the game out of reach. Of her game-high 18 points, 12 came from the free-throw line.
With eight seconds remaining and Southwest frantically fighting for points, Roller came up hobbling in the paint on defense. The crowd rose silently as teammates carried her from the floor. She could have limped off, but Young wanted this game over without a long delay.
The horn sounded on a 56-49 win for the Lady Eagles, and the attention turned to the condition of Roller.
"I just rolled it," Roller said just minutes after the game. "We don't play again until next Friday, so I'll be okay."
She walked slowly up and down the deserted halls of the high school while she answered questions about the game and her team. Mostly she talked about her team.
"We are 17-4 now and undefeated in conference," said Roller. "We are ranked in Class 2, but I don't know how high."
(Purdy was ranked 10th in Class 2 in the Jan. 29 MBCA/Mosports HS Girls Basketball Poll.)
"Things are a lot different this year. Losing five seniors is hard. My teammates work so hard. I am really proud of them," said Roller. "They are all really good shooters, and they do what's necessary for us to win. We're all still learning."
The Purdy Lady Eagles play McAuley Catholic on Friday.
Southwest fell to 12-8 with the loss and now has a 4-2 conference record.
Purdy scorers: Addy Roller, 18; Rachael Neill, 10; Mattie White, 10; Katie Hughes, 6; Billie House, 5; Taylor Moller, 4; and Kristyn Cornman, 3.
Southwest scorers: Taylor Mettlach, 14; Nicole Ickes, 13; Cady Swindle, 8; Montana Hendrix, 7; and Michaela Mitchell, 7.