Lady Wildcats’ upset run ends
Seneca defeats Cassville for district title, 50-22
The Cinderella run of the Cassville girls basketball team came to an abrupt end on Friday, as the Lady Wildcats fell in the district championship game.
Cassville, the No. 6 seed in the Class 4, District 12 Tournament, had upset No. 3 East Newton and No. 2 Mt. Vernon, leaving only No. 1 Seneca remaining.
However, the Lady Indians proved to be too much, knocking off the underdog in a 50-22 contest.
Seneca jumped out to a 7-0 lead, then after a Cassville timeout, went on another 7-2 run. The Lady Indians’ relentless pressure caused multiple turnovers, on which they capitalized.
Cassville took another timeout at 5:43 in the first quarter, and the Lady Wildcats got their legs.
A technical call on Seneca put Riley Morris on the line for a total of four shots. She made half to bring the score to 20-7. In the second quarter, Sharayah Seymour had an energizing series, stealing a pass into the paint and hitting a 3-pointer, then pulling off another steal and hitting a layup.
Seneca, however, closed the half with a steal and bucket to go up 32-16.
In the second half, the Lady Wildcats attempted to get rolling, but every time they did, Seneca would match them and more.
Reed Smith, Cassville girls basketball coach, said going into the game, he knew this outcome was a possibility.
“I felt the girls were ready mentally, but we got punched in the mouth early with that turnover and layup,” he said. “It just felt like we were trying to dig out and dig out, and we just couldn’t do it. Seneca is a good shooting team, too.
“It’s not the way we wanted it to end, but being in the championship game, we take a lot of solace in that and were extremely happy to get there.”
Morris said that first quarter played a big role in the game for the players, too.
“We needed to come onto the floor with more confidence,” she said. “We were not ready for them to score that much right off the bat. But, I’m proud of us for making it that far. We were the second-to-last seed and made the championship — that’s crazy.”
Seymour, who finished with 7 points, said as the final horn sounded, her feelings were surreal.
“It was unbelievable to me that I had just played my last game,” she said.
Morris, who led the Lady Wildcats with 12 points in the game, said the emotion was flowing as the clock hit zeroes.
“There was a lot of crying, but there was also a lot of belief,” she said. “I gave a speech saying how proud I was of everyone to make it that far in the first place.”
“That made me cry,” Seymour said.
On Feb. 26, the Lady Wildcats bested East Newton, 31-29, and on March 1, they toppled Mt. Vernon, 34-31.
“Against East Newton the first time, we didn’t have our best game, and we really wanted that one back,” Smith said. “Against Mt. Vernon, we were having some injury troubles, so we knew that was a winnable game in districts.”
Seymour said the week of upsets was a wild one.
“It was a roller coaster of a week,” she said. “Every day, we’d come to the gym wondering if this was our last practice or game — and then it wasn’t.”
Smith said that week showed how much the team has matured this season.
“They have grown so much this year, and we knew all these wins were possible,” he said. “During the season, we lost a lot of close games, and these girls found a way to fight through that and get over the hill at the district tournament. We were able to close out those games.”
Morris and Seymour, along with Chloe Moeller, are the team’s three seniors, and Smith said the success this season wouldn’t have been possible without them.
“As a first-year head coach and in my first year at Cassville, I was pleased to have those three girls as my seniors,” he said. “They have tons of leadership skills, and I can’t say enough good things about them.”
Morris said playing basketball at Cassville has been an important part of her life and growth.
“When I first played, I would get overwhelmed and get down on myself,” she said. “By my senior year, I was better about that, so I not only grew as a player, but as a person.”
Seymour said for her time in the program, it is the friendships that will leave lasting memories.
“Even with us leaving, the program is slowly getting better, too,” she said.