Leading 64-4 in Friday's Keady Classic semifinal, reigning champion Spearville looked untouchable heading into Saturday's championship game. Bucklin, however, would not go down without a fight. The 10th-ranked Lady Lancers (2A) did lead by as many as 19 points in the final quarter before hanging on for a 52-43 win.
"This will be a good experience, this game," said Spearville coach Andrew Kempke. "Bucklin is a good team and we had to actually fight. A lot of games beforehand things came a little easier. Today wasn’t easy. They had to work for everything. This will definitely be something we can grow from moving forward. We kind of did just enough to win today."
It looked like another runaway early on as Bucklin turned the ball over several times and started the game 0 for 9 from the floor. On the other end, Spearville senior Ehlaina Hartman was coming off a 19-point half against Macksville. She got into foul trouble early but senior Brianna Ede was there to pick up the slack with six points and four rebounds in the first quarter as Spearville opened a 15-4 lead.
Bucklin senior Mackenzie Birney knocked down a 3-pointer for the first Red Ace field goal 34 seconds into the second quarter. That cut the gap to 10 points before Ede scored on back-to-back putbacks for her 12th point and ninth rebound of the game just two minutes into the second quarter. She slowed in the second half but still led all players with 21 points and 14 boards.
"She's a girl who has been pretty consistent for us throughout the years," Kempke said. "She really started to come on as a sophomore, and through the years, has just gotten better. She was massive for us. She played great and did a lot of the little things some of the other girls weren't willing to do for us today. She got winded in the second half. She'll sleep well tonight."
Red Ace junior Hayley Miller swished a three in the final 10 seconds of the first half to keep the game in check at 30-21 at the break.
The Lady Lancer defense again proved effective in the third quarter, holding Bucklin to just two field goals while forcing six turnovers. Spearville freshman Taegan Pedigo had two takeaways in the first two seconds of the half, the first turning into points for junior Alissa Heskamp. The Lady Lancers led by as many as 16 points in the quarter and still held a 42-27 lead heading into the fourth.
Baskets from Ede and Hartman put Spearville ahead 46-27 in the early seconds of the fourth. Bucklin battled back from there with an eight-point quarter from Birney. She paced the Red Aces with 14 points.
Bucklin ultimately cut the gap to nine points in the final seconds, but Spearville got free throws from Hartman and Heskamp to keep the lead comfortable. Red Ace junior Catherine Bowman scored 12 points, and Halie Feikert and Ashleigh Mazerac each added six points and combined for 16 rebounds.
Heskamp finished with 17 points for the Lady Lancers. Hartman scored eight points in limited action, and Addie Nau grabbed seven boards to go with her two points.