MONROE CITY — The South Callaway Lady Bulldogs tormented the Monroe City Lady Panthers, and that translated to a title.
No. 2 seed South Callaway was a disruptive presence from the get-go as the Lady Bulldogs throttled top-seeded Monroe City 74-59 in a state-ranked showdown for the Class 3, District 7 championship Friday night.
The dominating victory was the 16th in the last 17 games for sixth-ranked South Callaway (19-2), which captured its third district title in the last four years and will return to the state playoffs for the first time since 2019. Second-ranked Monroe City ended its season with a 23-3 record.
"We didn't allow them to run their stuff and get the ball inside, and then work inside-out," Lady Bulldogs head coach Daniel Burns said. "With our defensive pressure, and our length and how athletic we are, it's hard to see the floor.
"We pressured their guards to keep them uncomfortable and that gave them some issues early on."
South Callaway will now move on to the Class 3 sectionals at 6 p.m. Wednesday, but won't find out the identity of its opponent until today. The Lady Bulldogs will square off against the winner of this afternoon's District 8 title game between fourth-ranked Tipton (22-4) and Linn (13-9).
"I'm super-proud of these girls and they keep impressing me," Burns said. "They're so competitive and so close as a team. You see how tough they are, and so resilient — they're grinders."
South Callaway started fast Friday night, producing the game's first six points. After Monroe City closed within 6-4, the Lady Bulldogs finished the first quarter on a 13-6 run to build a 19-10 advantage.
The Lady Panthers opened the second quarter by connecting on a 3-pointer to make it a six-point contest, but South Callaway came right back with a 9-2 run to expand its lead to 28-15.
The Lady Bulldogs carried a 32-18 advantage into halftime.
South Callaway stretched its lead to 19 points early in the third quarter when Monroe City briefly seized what proved to be its only momentum in the game. The Lady Panthers replied with a 10-0 run to pull within 39-30.
The Lady Bulldogs, though, had the answer again behind a 13-4 run — including a trio of 3-pointers — to push their advantage to 52-34. South Callaway owned a 54-41 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The closest Monroe City got in the final 8 minutes was 11 points and the Lady Bulldogs sealed their district championship by hitting 12-of-18 free throws in the quarter.
"We've been in that situation before and played some really tough teams," Burns said. "Playing those tough games late in the year really helped us grind this one out."
Senior guard Paige Clubb delivered a game-high 27 points to direct three players in double figures for South Callaway. Senior center DeLaney Horstman added 19 points and junior guard Raegan Brown supplied 18.
Junior guard Hailee Potter finished with nine points on three 3-pointers, including a pair from the left corner in the third quarter to help interrupt the Lady Panthers' comeback attempt.
"Hailee shot lights out in that third quarter," Burns said. "That was huge."
Hallie Dyer provided 23 points — including six 3s — to pace three players in double figures for Monroe City. Riley Quinn logged 21 points and Haley Hagan had 13.