North Callaway girls basketball falls to South Harrison in Hall of Fame Classic

North Callaway's Riley Blevins shoots a free throw against South Harrison in the Hall of Fame Classic Saturday at Tolton High School in Columbia. (Robby Campbell/Fulton Sun)
North Callaway's Riley Blevins shoots a free throw against South Harrison in the Hall of Fame Classic Saturday at Tolton High School in Columbia. (Robby Campbell/Fulton Sun)

COLUMBIA -- Tipping off at 10 a.m. Saturday, the North Callaway Ladybirds made just 11 shots from the field, including only four in the first half.

"I think we did an incredible job on the defensive end," North Callaway girls basketball coach Andrew Klein said. "I don't really care about the score. I care more about how hard we played on the defensive end and rebounded hard, and that was the game plan. We just didn't execute or make enough shots on offense. Their defense is very good, and they sub well and play really hard."

In a matchup between Class 3 teams with winning records, the Ladybirds fell 59-36 to the South Harrison Bulldogs in the Hall of Fame Classic at Tolton High School. South Harrison took a 179-mile bus ride to Tolton, while North Callaway had a 26½-mile trip.

Heading into the contest, both teams averaged just over 53 points per game, but the Bulldogs had the advantage defensively, giving up just 38.6 points per game to North Callaway's 47.3.

South Harrison's defending proved key as the Bulldogs held all-district Ladybirds Riley Blevins to 11 points (two 3s and 3-4 at the charity stripe) and Natalie Shryock scoreless.

Furthermore, South Harrison limited North Callaway's 3-point shooting, with the Ladybirds making just three 3s after knocking down seven in their previous game against Wright City on Monday.

"I think we got chances and looks that we usually hit, and when it doesn't go in, that sucks," Klein said of North Callaway's 3-point shooting. "Their defense did a good job of not letting us catch and making us work off the ball to get open looks. That sort of thing makes you tired over time. Credit to them; it was awesome. I'm not worried about our 3-point shooting ability or anything like that."

Since the Bulldogs protected the perimeter well, North Callaway was forced to score inside, and Ladybird post Kymorie Myers recorded a team-high 12 points, mainly due to that.

South Harrison (15-6) may have 87 fewer students than North Callaway (16-7), which has 277, but the Bulldogs have a 19-player squad to the Ladybirds' 10, and their depth showed in their balanced offense.

Three South Harrison players reached double figures in points to just two for North Callaway, with seven players scoring to just five Ladybirds. The Bulldogs' Abigail Molloy notched a game-high 14 points (one 3 and 1-2 at the free-throw line), Hannah Carter posted 11 points (3-7 at the charity stripe) and Lexi Hunter tallied 11 points (one 3).

"They're really patient, which is good," Klein said. "When you have, Ms. Carter -- No. 34 -- when you have somebody that you can go to for a good look, that helps as far as easy looks. We understood kind of that game plan. It's kind of one of those days where we settled on offense."

Molloy opened her account on the game's first possession, draining a right corner 3 to hand South Harrison a 3-0 lead, and the Bulldogs remained on top from there.

Myers converted North Callaway's only shot from the field in the first quarter, hitting a layup to put it at 5-2 South Harrison.

A couple of possessions later, the Ladybirds cut their deficit to one (5-4), their smallest of the contest, when Hartley went 2-2 at the free-throw line.

Following that, the Bulldogs started a 7-0 run, five points scored by Emma Chamberlin (a left-wing floater and a 3), to go up 12-4 and force a North Callaway timeout with 2:05 left in the first quarter.

On North Callaway's ensuing possession, Blevins ended the Ladybirds' cold spell, going 1-2 at the charity stripe. That was the Ladybirds' last point in the first quarter.

Capping the first-quarter offense, Molloy went coast-to-coast for a layup off her rebound to make it 14-5 South Harrison through one quarter.

North Callaway crashed the board on its opening drive of the second quarter, with Myers and Blevins pulling down offensive rebounds before Blevins made a 2-pointer to put it at 14-7 Bulldogs.

South Harrison did what it had done in the first quarter, tallying seven unanswered points to increase its lead to 14 (21-7) as the Ladybirds called timeout with 5:46 remaining in the second. Hunter scored in back-to-back possessions, including a 3 to begin that run.

"They do a really good job on that end, but we got some open loops that we're used to hitting," Klein said. "When it doesn't go in, then we got to figure out a way to battle through that. Today, it's a little too much for us to overcome. But we're not worried about that. We're a confident team that knows that we can score the ball at a high rate, and it just didn't happen today. So, you roll with the punches. We just got to roll with this one and get better for the rest of the week and then districts."

Burgher got North Callaway back on the scoreboard, hitting two free throws to reduce its deficit to 12.

The closest the Ladybirds got to the Bulldogs between Burgher's free throws and halftime was an 11-point margin after Blevins landed a top-of-the-arc 3 provided by Shryock. Staying in control, South Harrison ended the first half on a 7-0 to hold a 32-14 advantage at the break.

Still struggling to get its offense going in the second half, North Callaway used its first timeout with 3:20 left in the third quarter after the Bulldogs extended to 21 (40-19), their largest lead at that point when Molloy scored a transition layup off her steal on South Harrison's end.

The Ladybirds timeout worked to an extent, concluding the third quarter on a 5-4 run with a Blevins 3 and Hartley layup. Hartley notched half of North Callaway's 10 points in the third, hitting a 3 earlier in the quarter.

While the Ladybirds did make four shots from the field in the fourth, their most in any quarter, they did have a four-point drive.

During that possession, Burgher got a layup to fall while fouled, and she missed the and-1 before Hartley collected two offensive boards. Then, Blevins was fouled and went 2-2 at the free-throw line.

It was still 41-28 South Harrison following that drive, though, and the Bulldogs tacked on points to their lead the rest of the way.

Pressley Schmauch became the fifth and final Ladybird to score when she landed a floater inside off a Faith Cash steal to make it 57-34 South Harrison.

Regardless of the result, North Callaway girls basketball competed in the Hall of Fame Classic for the first time.

Nine days before districts, the event provided the Ladybirds tough opposition, which it could use with Class 3 No. 3 Montgomery County and No. 10 Centralia in its district. Class 3 District 7 has the most state-ranked teams, boys or girls, of the four districts Callaway County basketball teams are in.

"It's a really good tournament with a lot of really good competition," Klein said of the Hall of Fame Classic. "So, we're happy to play this kind of game this late in the season to give us kind of a taste of what districts is probably going to look like for us. We'd be happy to be in it next year because we want to be a team that can compete with good teams like them."

Before districts, North Callaway (6-2 Eastern Missouri Conference) has two EMO games, taking on Mark Twain (5-16, 2-6 EMO) first at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Mark Twain High School in Center.

"They're a much-improved team; at least their record is from last year to this year," Klein said. "We can't take that lightly. Conference opponents are always tough, and we're playing at their place. So, we're gonna be excited to get back and play a familiar face and work on some things that we struggled with today."