(Josh Mills/Standard Democrat)
POPLAR BLUFF -- The Portageville Lady Bulldogs fought until the end on Wednesday night at the E.T. Peters gymnasium in Poplar Bluff, falling seven points shy of advancing to their first quarterfinal game in 20 years to the Greenville Lady Bears, 67-60.
"I thought our team came out and played well, Portageville head coach Eric Ellerbrook said. "We just ran into a good team. Greenville is a well-coached team and they played hard. It came down to the wire and they made more buckets than we did, that's all you can say.
With only seconds remaining in the third quarter, senior Kellye Penn sank a six-foot jump shot to bring the Lady Bulldogs within one point of the Lady Bears to make it a close, 45-44 game and set up a very exciting fourth quarter.
Greenville opened the fourth with a 3-pointer by Lindsay Henson, who finished with 11 points, to make it a 48-44 game. But, four consecutive points later by Jeleea Drake tied the ball game for the first time during the contest with 6:15 left to play. As 13 seconds went by on the scoreboard, senior Mallory Bidewell grabbed a steal and drove to the basket to give Portageville their first lead since the five minute mark of the first quarter, 50-48.
From then on their were five more lead changes throughout the fourth period, with the biggest one coming from the Greenville side.
With 50 seconds remaining in the game, Tara Porter took a shot from around the rim, but came up short. After claiming her own rebound, she put up a second attempt only this time it was right on, to give the Lady Bears a 62-60 lead that they would hold on to until the final buzzer.
"I thought both teams left it all on the floor tonight," Ellerbrook said. "We put a little bit more pressure on them and got a few loose balls. We were able to capitalize on some turnovers and we played some pretty decent defense. It just came down to who made the free throws."
Free throws indeed was the key for the Lady Bears during the fourth quarter, especially for senior Sara Woodgeard. Woodgeard was a calm 10-12 during the fourth quarter alone from the charity stripe and was 14-19 throughout the entire game.
Woodgeard finished with an impressive game-high of 41 points and 11 rebounds, which Greenville head coach Diane Meyer thought was under the radar.
"She had such a quiet 41 points," Meyer said. "She's just a player, she played really well. She got hit on a lot of the shots she took up in the air and still converted them, which that's the way it's going to be and you got to expect that. But, I think she's getting used to it and doing a good job of handling all that."
Greenville as a team shot 70 percent (17-24) from the free throw line, while the Lady Bulldogs shot a tough 37 percent (12-32) which ended up making a huge difference in the game.
"We went out there and worked hard," Penn said. "We wanted it, but things just didn't go our way tonight. Some of our shots weren't falling early and we kind of got down. But, we never gave up and we played hard. That's all you can do."
(Josh Mills/Standard Democrat)
As for the Lady Bulldogs seniors: Penn, Bidewell and Mary Hannah Fisher, Ellerbrook said all three seniors will be sorely missed, not just because of their play on the court, but for the kind of people they are off of it.
"I thought our seniors played well all year long," Ellerbrook said. "They played well tonight, and I was proud of them. We're going to miss these three seniors. They are great leaders, role models and great students. We're going to miss them."
Penn finished her high school career with 13 points, seven rebounds and was 5-8 from the free throw line. Bidewell made the only 3-pointers sinking two-of-three from behind the arc to end up with 10 points. Fisher managed to go 1-2 from the free throw line to finish with one point.
"Any loss this late in the season is a tough loss," Penn said. "Once you get this far, you want to keep going. It's especially hard for me as a senior because I'm not ever going to play high school basketball again.
"With our record of 25-4 you can't complain a whole lot. We were the first team from Portageville to win a district in 20 years so, you got to be happy. It's hard tonight to be extremely proud but looking back on it later we'll be proud of the way that we played."