MOKANE — State-ranked South Callaway has rarely been challenged all season, but the Lady Bulldogs were nearly stripped of their unbeaten status by the New Haven Lady Shamrocks.
Trailing 34-27 at halftime of Wednesday night's semifinals at the South Callaway Invitational Tournament, the No. 2 seed Lady Bulldogs outscored No. 3 New Haven 16-13 in the third quarter to trim their deficit to 47-43.
South Callaway completed its comeback by outscoring the Lady Shamrocks 20-14 in the fourth quarter to escape with a 63-61 victory. Senior guard Adrian Mann converted four free throws late in the game to put the Lady Bulldogs (13-0) — ranked fifth in Class 3 — in front to stay.
"It was one of those things that we just really haven't had to overcome this season," South Callaway head coach Darren Humphrey said of the halftime deficit. "(New Haven) is an extremely well-coached team and really fundamentally sound."
Mann sparked the Lady Bulldogs with a game-high 26 points and made 9-of-10 free throws. The dynamic freshman duo of forward DeLaney Horstman and guard Paige Clubb added 15 and 12 points, respectively.
"We finally got some open shots and really hit the free throws tonight," Humphrey said. "Defensively, our effort, you couldn't ask for anything more. It was one of those games that really showed me and everyone how much heart these girls have and how hard they work."
The Lady Bulldogs now prepare for a clash with top-seeded Hermann — ranked eighth in Class 3 — for the tournament title at 4 p.m. Saturday. The Lady Bearcats advanced with a 66-39 semifinal blitz of No. 4 seed New Bloomfield, ranked ninth in Class 2, on Wednesday night.
"We couldn't be more excited about it (playing for championship), it's something very important to us," Humphrey said. "It's kind of a tall order to fill (against Hermann). We're excited to be there, and excited for the outcome the tournament could hold for us."
Lauren Gerlemann paced New Haven with 20 points.
In related tournament news, all of the boys' games scheduled for Thursday night were postponed and moved back a day because of the threat of icy weather. In tonight's semifinals at the high school, No. 1 seed Montgomery County meets No. 5 Hermann at 6 p.m. and No. 2 New Bloomfield squares off against No. 6 South Callaway at 7:30.
In the consolation semifinals at the middle school, No. 4 seed North Callaway plays No. 8 Southern Boone's junior varsity at 6 and No. 3 New Haven faces No. 7 Russellville at 7:30.
In the girls' division today, No. 8 seed North Callaway battles No. 6 Russellville for fifth place at the high school and No. 5 Owensville meets No. 7 Montgomery County for seventh place at the middle school. Both games tip off at 4:30 p.m.
All games Saturday will be played at the high school. The schedule starts with the boys' seventh- and fifth-place games, respectively, at 10 a.m. and 11:30.
New Bloomfield will then face New Haven in the girls' third-place contest at 1 p.m., followed by the boys' third-place matchup at 2:30. After the girls' championship at 4, the boys' title game is set for 5:30.