Lady Comets fight till end, fall to Doniphan in district finals' thriller
Sometimes the difference between a good team and a great team can be razor thin.
Great teams can certainly dominate the action, but they can also find a way to get things done when the going is tighter.
Such is the case with the Doniphan Donettes and the Alton Lady Comets.
After holding down a slot in the Class 3 top five ranks for most of the season, thanks in part to a passel of double-digit wins, Doniphan left no doubt it is a force to be reckoned with as the regular season wore down.
The Alton Lady Comets, too, have had their share of lop-sided victories this year, with the 31-point rout of Malden in the opening-round of the district tournament serving as a prime example of the Lady Comets' prowess.
So in a battle of two high-powered squads with a spot in the state tournament on the line, what separates the two?
As it turns out, the difference between Doniphan and Alton in the championship game of the Class 3 District 3 Tournament turned out to be the Donettes' ability to find a way to get things done in a tight game. This despite some lock-tight defense from the Lady Comets in the fourth period.
Logging just one field goal in the last seven minutes of play, the Donettes managed to hit enough free throws to hold off a hard-charging group of Lady Comets for a thrilling 61-59 victory March 2 at Bess Activity Center on the campus of Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff.
Had there been even 30 more seconds to the game, the two teams were so evenly matched that the outcome might have been reversed.
Doniphan's only shot from the field in the fourth was a 3-pointer from Jan Smith at the 7:06 mark of the frame that put the Donettes on top 47-38.
While the opening minutes of the fourth didn't favor Alton, as Smith's trey was followed by three straight Lady Comet turnovers without getting a shot, Alton was far from done.
Sam Allred drilled a baseline jumper for Alton's first hoop of the fourth. Allred led the Lady Comets with 18 points, seven coming in the final stanza.
After two free throws from Shelli Ellis (13 points), Allred was at it again, racking up an old-fashioned 3-point play at the 3:46 mark that pulled the Lady Comets within five, 50-45.
Sarah Rowe (four points) kept things churning in a positive way for Alton by jacking a huge 3-ball at the 3:15 point of the fourth.
Not yet done, Lauren Hatten (13 points) edged Alton within two, 52-50, on a layup with 2:39 remaining in the game.
However, just like that, Doniphan opened up some much-needed breathing room.
The Donettes, who netted 14 points from the free throw line in the fourth, hit four-of-five from the stripe to pull ahead 59-52 with 29 ticks left.
But much as they have done all year long, the Lady Comets dug deep and found their never-say-die attitude.
Especially Jessica Bailey.
Bailey (eight points), cool as a cucumber, pulled up and drilled a big-time 3-ball with 23 seconds left in the game, narrowing Doniphan's lead to four, 59-55.
Bailey then followed up that 3-point splash with a steal and layup that brought Alton within two points with 10 seconds left.
Doniphan broke up Bailey's run with two free throws, but Allred shook free for a layup that once again edged Alton within two, 61-59.
Allred's layup also came at the buzzer, ending the Lady Comets' spirited charge, leaving the Donettes on top by two points.
The Lady Comets, who were down 44-38 after three, outscored Doniphan 21-17 in the fourth period, but just ran out of time in the game.
The Donettes opened up a six-point lead in the first half, but Alton rallied to keep things close at intermission.
Doniphan opened the game with three straight hoops to take a 6-0 lead, but the Lady Comets did not go scoreless long.
Hatten hit the first hoop for Alton at the 5:21 point of the first, and after falling behind 14-9, Bailey drilled her first trey of the game to keep the Lady Comets in reach of the Donettes, down 14-12.
Doniphan closed the first with two straight hoops to lead 18-12 after one.
Alton kept chipping away and did manage to wrest the lead from Doniphan for a brief time in the second period.
Courtney Gazaway hit a jumper, followed by a bucket from Hatten, to give the Lady Comets a 25-24 lead with 2:16 left until the half.
This lead held until Hailey Reed knocked down a 3-pointer near the end of the second that gave Doniphan a slim 27-26 lead at intermission.
Alton locked the game again in the third, at 32-all thanks to a layup from Ellis, but Morgan Davis made sure Doniphan grabbed the lead for good.
Pumping in six of her game-high 27 points during the last two minutes of the third, Davis helped the Donettes to a 44-38 lead after three.
And although the field goals dried up for Doniphan in the final frame, the Donettes were able to hit enough free throws to stave off the Lady Comets by two points.
Ashlie Turner tallied two points for Alton.
In semi-final action, the Lady Comets topped the Twin Rivers Lady Royals 66-55 Feb. 26 behind 18 points from Allred.