RUSSELLVILLE - New Bloomfield head coach Brett Craighead wasn't too happy as his Lady Wildcats went into halftime.
New Bloomfield led Russellville 18-12 after two quarters in Friday night's Class 2, District 8 title game, but the margin would have been greater if the Lady Wildcats had gotten off a chip-shot layup as time expired.
Craighead insisted his team be more aware of the clock and that, despite the six-point lead, it should consider the game scoreless moving forward.
"I told them it was 0-0 and that we wanted to win the third quarter," Craighead said. "Just take it quarter by quarter; that was our goal."
The No. 3 seed Lady Wildcats didn't just win the third quarter - they dominated it. New Bloomfield outscored No. 4 Russellville 15-3 in the period and went on to secure the District 8 championship with a resounding 55-33 victory over the Lady Indians.
The district championship was the Lady Wildcats' first in Class 2, and their first overall since winning one in 1997.
"These girls have worked hard, they've played together for a long time and they kind of got it together the last couple of weeks - and I'm pleased with their effort," Craighead said. "It means a lot to them."
"They deserve it."
New Bloomfield (15-11) will play New Franklin (26-1) - ranked fifth in the state - in a Class 2 sectional at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Jefferson City High School. New Franklin captured the District 7 championship with a 56-50 victory over Harrisburg on Saturday afternoon.
"We've got nothing to lose at this point," Craighead said. "Nobody expected us to be here and whatever happens now is gravy, the way I look at it."
Russellville committed 13 turnovers in the first half Friday night as a result of the Lady Wildcats' defensive pressure at halfcourt and the Lady Indians' offensive fortunes didn't reverse themselves after the break. Russellville produced its only basket of the third quarter on senior forward A.J. Grellner's layup, drawing the Lady Indians within 23-14.
New Bloomfield turned the ball over on its next possession to give Russellville a chance to get even closer. However, senior guard Bethany Craighead came up with a steal and finished the play on the other end with a basket to stretch the Lady Wildcats' lead to 11 points.
Russellville then missed its next eight shots while New Bloomfield ended the quarter on an 8-1 run to open up a 33-15 advantage. The Lady Wildcats limited the Lady Indians to just 1-of-12 shooting in the third quarter.
"They were just determined; early in the game it was tight, they were nervous, they'd never been in this position before," Brett Craighead said. "That third quarter, they came out relaxed."
Meanwhile, New Bloomfield was 7-of-15 from the floor in the third quarter, a big reason it was able to avenge a 35-31 Show-Me Conference loss at Russellville on Feb. 19.
"We hit shots (this game)," Craighead said. "... I knew, and I really did feel that we could beat them ... and the girls felt like that too. I think they used that as motivation."
New Bloomfield looked to take its 18-point advantage and run the clock in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Indians brought defensive pressure of their own and scored the first five points to make it 33-20. Russellville sped up the tempo just like the Lady Wildcats had done and Craighead - having already used two timeouts in the third quarter to avoid turnovers - decided to let his team play through the Lady Indians' run for the time being.
"We slowed down and made a couple of mistakes and got shook," Craighead said. "We made a couple of mistakes and we settled ourselves down, and I like that."
After taking just five free throws through the first three quarters, the Lady Wildcats went 18-of-20 from the line in the final 8 minutes to pull away for the commanding victory. Bethany Craighead connected on 11-on-12 free throws in the fourth quarter.
"We didn't miss many and that's what I said," Brett Craighead said. "We have to keep taking it to them, getting to the line and quit fouling on our end - and that was part of the talk at halftime."
Bethany Craighead directed four New Bloomfield players in double figures with a game-high 18 points. Junior guard Mykaela Bonnett also supplied 13 points, while junior forwards Ashley Kelley and Zoe Welschmeyer contributed 10 apiece.
Bethany Craighead and Welschmeyer were both named to the all-tournament team, while Brett Craighead was selected the district coach of the year.
Senior guard Hannah Matthews led Russellville with seven points. Grellner, senior Hannah Morrow and junior Haley Windsor added six points apiece.