The Cassville Lady Wildcats fell 51-45 to the Sparta Lady Trojans in the championship game of the Galena Lady Bear Classic on Jan. 18.
The Lady Wildcats built a quick 10-4 lead midway through the first period on baskets by Raeghan Blisard and Emily Speakman.
Another basket by Speakman with two minutes remaining in the initial quarter forced Sparta coach Rocky Valentine to call a timeout.
Whatever coach Valentine said in the huddle during the timeout, it triggered a spark in his players, especially Cailyn Long, who scored 6 straight points to cut Cassville's lead to 14-10 at the end of the first quarter.
The Lady Wildcats battled foul trouble all night, but the biggest blow came when Blisard picked up her third personal foul in the second quarter.
With Blisard on the bench, the Lady Trojans rolled into halftime with a 22-20 edge.
Sparta carried their momentum into the third quarter.
Long, who finished with 23 points, and the Lady Trojans, opened the period with a 16-6 run. Sparta was sparked by consecutive 3-pointers by Nicole Jenkins, as well as a steal she made at mid-court, and a nice dish to Long who finished with a layup.
Cassville tried to battle back in the final period.
Cassville trailed 38-26 to open the period and closed to within 6 points 43-37 with a minute and a half to go but were unable to completely erase the hole that was dug in the third quarter.
Cassville brought a lot of intensity, energy and pressure in the fourth but came up short in bringing home the title trophy.
Blisard and Speakman were named to the All-Tournament team.
Scoring for Cassville: Speakman, 13 points; Britani Long, 10; Blisard, 8; Lindsay Nolan, 6; Sydney Curnes, 4; and; Katelyn Pitts and Scott, 2 each.
Scoring for Sparta: Long, 23 points; Tensa Gilley, 8; Jenkins, 6; Brandi Stevens, Keeli Virtue and Meg Moles, 4 apiece; and Sydney Foley, 2.