It wasn't the storybook ending that Thayer Lady Bobcat fans had hoped for one of the program's brightest lights, but regardless, Micah Stevens' brilliant career in the green-and-white came to an end in the semi-final round of the Class 2 District 2 Tournament at Summersville High School March 6.
The third-seeded Hartville Lady Eagles managed to take a 10-point lead in the fourth period and then fight off a late charge from the second-seeded Lady Cats, keeping Thayer from reaching the district championship game by a 66-59 count.
Hartville's, the two-time defending district champ, one-two punch of guards Blake Kaisler and Maggie Arnall were just too much for Thayer (22-4.) Kaisler led all scorers with 29, while Arnall added 17.
Micah Stevens, Thayer's dynamic 5-3, do-it-all guard, paced the Lady Bobcats with 23 points in the game. Stevens cemented her place among the Lady Bobcat elite by finishing as the program's all-time leading scorer with 2,123 points.
The Lady Cats, ranked sixth in Class 2, beat Hartville 61-51 on Jan. 22 in the Thayer Winter Classic, but on this night, it was the Lady Eagles' turn at victory.
Arnall hit three out of four free throws with a touch under a minute-and-a-half left in the game to give the Lady Eagles a 62-53 cushion.
But Thayer made things interesting in the last 60 seconds of play.
Lacey Hawkins came off the bench for the Lady Bobcats and drilled a pair of treys, the last one at the 41-second mark, to pull Thayer within four points, 63-59.
But that was as close as Thayer would get.
Hartville hit three of four free throws in the last 32 seconds to advance to the district championship game with a 66-59 win over Thayer.
The game was all-out, up and down the court from the beginning, with both teams preferring to push the pace on offense.
Hartville pulled ahead 14-8 in the first before Thayer closed fast.
Kaley Hebert (14 points) hit two charity tosses with 3:30 left in the first, followed by a pair of buckets from Stevens, to edge Thayer within two, 16-14, after one.
Thayer racked up six straight points right before intermission to grab the margin, but Hartville had an answer and the Lady Eagles moved on top 30-27 at the break.
The big obstacle between Thayer and a date with Couch in the finals of the district tourney turned out to be a huge Hartville run in the third period.
The Lady Cats had managed to pull within a single point of Hartville, 32-31, thanks to a rare four-point play from Stevens in the third.
Then the Lady Eagles hit the gas.
Gillian Moon hit a layup, followed by back-to-back hoops in the paint from Jasmin Hughes and Kaisler. By the time Arnall hit a 3-pointer at the 5:26 point of the third, Hartville had ripped off nine unanswered points to turn a one-point lead into a 41-31 lead.
Stevens nipped the run with her second 3-ball of the frame and the Lady Cats closed the third with a 7-2 run, but Thayer still trailed by five, 46-41, after three.
This turned out to be enough breathing room for the Lady Eagles to fend off Thayer's late run and emerge with a seven-point win.
Laken Martin finished with six points for Thayer, while Kristen Earls had four.
Sara Riley, Samantha Oakes and Lauren Hargus posted two points apiece for the Lady Bobcats.
Thayer opened play in the tournament with an 82-32 win over Koshkonong March 4.
The Lady Cats jumped in front 26-6 after the first period and never looked back.
Stevens led all scorers with 29 points.
Hebert followed with 14 and Earls added nine. Oakes had eight and Hawkins six. Martin and Melisa Cabrales logged five points each, with Hargus, Leslie Shaw and Miranda Webber ending the game with two points each.
Koshkonong was led by Breezy Bailey's nine points. Megan Talbert and Desaray Collins scored seven points each.
Sydney Wade had four, Samantha Collins three and Josey Scott two for the Lady Jays.