Seniors pull Lady Eagles past Salem
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
If you were hoping to get an open seat at the Eagles’ Nest last Tuesday night, sorry about your luck.
Purple with a dash of black and gold flooded the campus of Lanesville High School as the Class 1A No. 2 Lady Eagles hosted Salem in their final game in friendly territory. Prior to the contest, the Lady Eagles honored the careers of seniors Emma Campbell and Kennedy Gordon, the most decorated senior class in program history.
Four straight Southern Athletic Conference titles and three sectional titles to this point meant little in this instance as the Lady Eagles battled the 2020 Class 3A state runner-up, the first meeting between the two programs since Nov. 12, 2011. Despite going into the final quarter trailing by five, the senior duo were the catalyst of a 12-1 fourth-quarter run, leading the Lady Eagles to one last victory at home, 43-37.
“It’s really good for our program to get this win,” Campbell said. “It was like the tournament play we’re gonna see in regional and so on. I don’t think we’ve beat Salem in a really long time, so this was a really good one.”
The seniors set the tone early for the Lady Eagles as their first five points came courtesy of a Campbell three and bucket from Gordon. After the Lady Lions tied the game with five straight points from Abigail Ratts, freshman guard Hylton Brumley drained a spot-up triple to give the hosts an early 8-5 lead.
The second quarter saw both foes turn up the intensity offensively as the Lady Lions saw star big Natalie Noel join the action with six points, followed by four apiece from Ratts and Sidney Brown. Starting with a three-point play from Brumley, the Lady Eagles countered with 19 total points, six coming courtesy of the 5-foot-7 Brumley. Junior wing Linzie Wernert followed with six points alongside five from Gordon and a bucket from sophomore guard Ava Kerr to take a 27-19 half-time edge.
Despite junior center Morgan Sonner kicking off the second half with a bucket off a crisp lead pass from Gordon, the Lady Eagles struggled offensively against the Lady Lions’ 2-3 zone, their only other points in the period coming off two Brumley freebies. The Lady Lions capitalized on their hosts’ misfortunes with a 15-0 surge, powered primarily by 10 of Ratts’ 12 points in the period alongside a Brown three. Natalie Dean capped off the surge with a last-second putback, sending the Lady Lions into the fourth quarter up 36-31.
“We had shots, we had looks, but (Salem) had us spread out (with their 2-3 zone), so we weren’t doing a good job of making baskets,” Lady Eagles’ skipper Angie Hinton said. “Ratts is good, and we knew we were gonna have trouble with her. We didn’t have anybody to stop her. She just willed herself to the basket and she just took over.”
Shortly before Dean’s buzzer-beater, the Lady Eagles suffered an injury scare with 36 seconds left in the third quarter. After scoring on a transition bucket, Ratts tried to get back on defense, only to get tangled up with Brumley, who was anticipating a rebound opportunity. Both players went down, but Brumley took the brunt of the blow, eventually being helped off the court.
Despite the offensive slump and being down one of their young stars, the Lady Eagles had no intention of losing on senior night. In what became a poetic fourth quarter, it was the seniors who led the way, starting with a pair of Campbell triples to take a 37-36 lead. Free throws from Campbell and Gordon sandwiched between a Wernert bucket composed a 12-1 explosion in the final period.
That lone Lady Lions’ point came at the free-throw line as the Lady Eagles’ defense prevented their guests from converting a single field goal. That freebie came from Ratts with just 11 seconds left, polishing off a game-high 22 points, though it only prevented a fourth-quarter shutout, shrinking the deficit to a 43-37 final.
“I’m so happy for my two seniors because they’ve been with me for four years and played behind kids and have been instrumental in our success the first three years,” Hinton said. “Emma willed herself out there, came out and made that first three which got us going, then the other one’s a back breaker. Her and Kennedy made their free throws in the fourth quarter, and that’s what you want your seniors to do. On senior night, for those two kids to be that instrumental at the end of the game, that’s what you write stories about.”
Brumley and Campbell led the way in a balanced scoring attack for the Lady Eagles with 11 points apiece, followed by nine from Gordon while Wernert chipped in eight. Alongside Ratts’ 22, Brown had seven followed by Noel’s six.
With the victory, the Lady Eagles continue their winning streak to a program-record 17 straight. It’s also the second straight game where the Lady Eagles pulled away in the fourth quarter, outscoring Eastern (Pekin) and the Lady Lions 26-3. Such a stretch in crunch time is a positive sign for the Lady Eagles as the postseason is almost upon them.
The Lady Eagles are currently in the midst of a 10-day down period, allowing them to rest before traveling for their final contest on Friday night in Scottsburg. Tipoff against the Warriorettes is set for 7:30 p.m.