Lady Mustangs extinguish Lady Dragons’ fire

Brittany Fowler snatches the rebound with help from Emily Owens during Friday’s game against Mountaingburg in the quarterfinals of the AA State Tournament at the MAC.

AMBER ROLLAND – Hoof Prints Staff

The first three minutes of action in the Lady Mustangs’ Friday night match-up with the Mountainburg Lady Dragons saw no score for the home team.  After the Lady Mustangs received the tip, sophomore Brittany Fowler was pick-pocketed by a Mountainburg guard who turned the opportunity into a fast-break layup.  The Lady Dragons scored four more unanswered points before Fowler drove into the lane for a layup.  From that point on, the Lady Mustangs were never down by more than four and successfully closed the gap to one point at the end of the first quarter with a score of 14-15.

The same full-court press that helped put the final nail in the coffin of the Springhill Lady Bears Tuesday night just wasn’t working against this team in the first half.  Sophomore Kaylee Greathouse and senior Taylor Owens, who formed the front of the press, were successful in cutting off the opposing guards’ attempts to push the ball down the court but couldn’t stop them from baseball-passing it to their more open opponents across half-court.

The Lady Mustangs worked hard to obtain the lead, finally overtaking the Lady Dragons early in the second quarter with a score of 17-15.  Two assists to a wide-open Taylor Owens on the right-hand block gave the Lady Mustangs some much-needed momentum, and the crowd began to respond accordingly.  However, every shot that the Lady Mustangs made was answered by the Lady Dragons with a seemingly effortless ease.  Even with senior Jenny Walker chasing the Lady Dragons’ game-leading scorer at the time, the opposing team was able to fight back.  The high accuracy of Lady Dragons’ shots looked to be the downfall of the Lady ‘Stangs, and by the end of the first half, they were down 31-30.

However, thanks to their daily mile-run and conditioning, the Lady Mustangs were able to wear down the opposing team of eight players with their vicious constant full-court press and running game.  When the Lady Dragons emerged from their dressing room at halftime, they sat on the bench to catch their breath rather than warming up.

The Lady Mustangs started off the second half by scoring two unanswered buckets to reclaim the lead.  They also increased the intensity of their defense, causing Lady Dragon turnover after turnover off of out-of-bounds passes, ten-second violations, backcourt calls, and five-second inbound violations, leaving the home team side of the MAC roaring with applause.  However, this wasn’t enough to slow down the offensive effort of the Lady Dragons, who managed to score 13 points in the third quarter to the Lady Mustangs’ 15 points, ending 47-44 with a Lady Mustang lead.

The final quarter began with another two Lady Mustang points, but the Lady Dragons quickly tied the score at 49 all before four minutes had elapsed.  This was the final push produced by the opposing team though, and the Lady Mustangs went on to score six straight points, with help from sophomore Kaylee Greathouse, who converted a steal into a layup and then produced a three-pointer from the right corner.  The Lady Mustangs then went into their stall game as the Lady Dragons vainly fouled time and time again to regain possession of the ball, sending Brittany Fowler and sophomore Cassidy Qualls to the charity stripe where they both knocked down all free throw attempts.

Thanks to a 17-point effort in the fourth quarter to the Lady Dragons’ ten points, the Lady Mustangs were able to pull out a W with a final score of 62-54.  Brittany Fowler led the team with 28 points and 10 rebounds, leaving her one assist shy from having a triple-double.  Kaylee Greathouse added ten points to the mix off of two three-pointers and two field goals.  She, Fowler, Owens, and Qualls combined for eight steals.

The Lady Mustangs have out-run their opponents once again, advancing to the semifinals.  They are slated to play the winner of Bigelow, the second place team from the west region, and Parkers Chapel, the first place seed out of the south, Saturday night at 6 p.m.