While it may have felt a bit unfamiliar for the Thayer Lady Bobcats to be the visiting team on their home court as they took the floor to tangle with Koshkonong in the finals of the 31st annual Thayer Lady Bobcat Winter Classic Jan. 21, the outcome of the game had a most familiar feel for the Lady Cats.
Dodging a couple of late bullets from the Lady Bluejays, Thayer won yet another Winter Classic title, 58-57, over a determined group from Koshkonong.
The second-seeded Lady Bobcats trailed for the duration of the second and third periods, before wrestling the lead from the top-seeded Lady Bluejays midway into the fourth.
Down 46-40 at the 6:43 mark of the final period, Thayer busted loose for an 8-0 run that saw it move in front 48-46 with 3:42 left in the game.
Building their lead to six points, the Lady Bobcats could have put the game away from the charity stripe, but they struggled a bit, leaving the door open for a Koshkonong late charge.
Krysta Adams (six points) hit a huge free throw with nine seconds left to pad Thayer's lead at four, 58-54.
This shot from the charity stripe turned out to be big as Lady Bluejay Johna Wade (11 points) drove downcourt and jacked a triple at the buzzer that would have tied the game save for Adam's free throw.
As it was, Koshkonong just ended up one point short of the Lady Cats.
"You can't take anything away from Koshkonong," said Lady Bobcat Head Coach Steve Atkisson. "They played a heck of a game. The only thing I'm disappointed in is, we didn't hit some critical free throws when we needed to. And they did."
Koshkonong's dynamic Katy Roark put on quite a show on the evening, scorching the nets for a game-high 27 points, including five treys, most which came from well beyond the arc.
"What I told our team before the game happened," Atkisson. "I said we had to watch out for a super-human game from Roark. And she had one. She's unreal."
The Lady Bobcats are equipped with a potent scoring threat of their own, guard LaShanda Horton.
Horton (16 points) canned three triples in the first period, including back-to-back shots, as Thayer held a 13-11 advantage after one.
Roark ended the first by busting a 3-ball of her own, and she followed that with one to open the second.
As Koshkonong hung around in the second, the Lady Cats went cold at the four-minute mark of the frame, giving the Lady Bluejays room to operate.
Ending the first half on an 8-1 run, Koshkonong moved in front 28-23 at the half.
Just as she did to get the second period started on a positive note for Koshkonong, Roark nailed yet another 3-pointer to begin the third, pushing the Lady Jays in front 31-23.
"We've got some young kids, and that makes it hard to play from behind," Atkission said. "Our spacing on offense wasn't good, and that caused us to bog down some."
Tasha Wrenfrow (11 points) got the Lady Bobcats back on solid footing with back-to-back hoops, before Valerie Dixon stepped up.
Dixon tossed in eight of her 10 points in the game down the stretch in the third to keep Thayer within striking distance.
"Val really got some big buckets and rebounds for us," said Atkisson.
Amanda Stuart (four points) closed the third with a hoop to keep Koshkonong in charge, 41-40, after three.
Where Dixon played big in the third, Heather Coffel did her share in the fourth, canning all five of her points in the final stanza.
"Heather also played big inside for us in the fourth," Atkisson. "She got some big boards for us when we really needed them."
Roark swished her last trey of the night with 6:43 left in the game, pushing the Lady Jays in front 46-40, before Thayer rallied to keep the Winter Classic trophy at home with a tight one-point win late.
Brittany Allen knocked in three treys for Thayer, on her way to nine points for the game. Tiffany Poulette added one point for the Lady Bobcats.
Kendra Hall tallied 10 points for Koshkonong, while Megan Hensley added three, and Amanda Driskell two for the Lady Jays.
The Lady Cats (11-6) opened the tourney by pounding Dora 81-22 Jan. 17.
Jumping in front 21-6 after one, Thayer extended its lead to 42-11 at the half.
Horton led all scorers with a game-high 28, while Adams followed with 23. Dixon added 10, Coffel nine, Wrenfrow seven, and Allen four.
Thayer made it to the finals by squeaking by the Couch Lady Indians 52-51 Jan. 20.
Horton tallied 22, and Adams nine. Coffel and Wrenfrow tossed in seven points each, while Dixon added four, and Allen three.
Koshkonong (9-3) started off their tourney run by defeating the Thayer junior varsity squad 54-40 Jan. 17.
Roark and Ashley Holesapple tallied 12 points apiece for the Lady Jays, while Stuart added 10, and Hall seven. Jackie Duncan followed with four, and Wade added three. Ashley Harris, Driskell and Hensley posted two points apiece.
Matched up with Big Spring Conference rival Alton in the semis Jan. 20, the Lady Bluejays escaped with a 64-62 victory.
Roark exploded for 29 points, while Wade tossed in 15. Stuart added six, Hall five and Duncan three. Harris, Hensley and Driskell logged two points each.