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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Here come the Lady Cats!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

CLEAR PATH: Thayer guard Samantha Oakes blows to the basket March 13 in the sectional round of the Class 2 State Tournament in Poplar Bluff. The Lady Bobcats pushed past Meadow Heights 51-40, earning Thayer a spot in the state semi-final round in Columbia. Photos/Mullins
The three of them have been there before, albeit on three separate occasions.

And now they get to go back, this time all three together, and all three wearing green and white.

Cliff Hawkins, Kristi Chester and Whitney Mills.

Their destination -- Mizzoui Arena in Columbia.

With a 51-40 victory over Meadow Heights in the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs March 13 at Poplar Bluff High School, the Thayer Lady Bobcats are headed to the Class 2 Show-Me Showdown and the state semi-finals.

Lady Bobcat Head Coach Cliff Hawkins took the Thayer boys' team to the state semi-final round in 2003, while Lady Bobcat Assistant Coach Kristi Chester guided the Couch Lady Indians to the semis in 2001, during her tenure as head coach at the school.

While it's been a couple of years since the Lady Bobcat coaching staff was active participants in the Show-Me Showdown, Lady Bobcat senior forward Whitney Mills, who transferred to Thayer this past summer, was just in Columbia a season ago, as a member of the Couch Lady Indians' squad that ended up fourth in Class 2.

Now, all united as one unit, the trio is heading back to Columbia.

"It's special. It really is special," said Hawkins. "I got to take the boys once and now we get to take the girls ... it's just special."

Thayer was scheduled to take on Canton (25-5) March 18.

In order to set up that clash with Canton, the Lady Cats (27-3) had to not only overcome the Meadow Heights Lady Panthers (20-9), but also a case of foul trouble in the quarterfinals.

With Kaley Hebert and Samantha Oakes, Thayer's starting guards, on the bench due to foul woes, Meadow Heights made a furious charge at Thayer in the second and third periods, after the Lady Bobcats had built a 15-6 lead after one.

The Lady Panthers used a 9-0 run in the second to narrow the gap and after outscoring Thayer 14-5 in the frame, the game was squared at 20-all at intermission.

"We got in foul trouble, that's what happened," Hawkins said. "You know, Kaley got 20 (points), but she probably only played a half because of foul trouble. She makes us go and when your two best guards are on the bench, bad things can happen. We were just out of sync."

Meadow Heights took its only lead of the afternoon, 25-24, early in the third period, thanks to a 5-0 spurt.

But then Thayer finally put the hammer down on defense.

Turning the Lady Panthers over, the Lady Bobcats racked up eight straight points to regain control of the game.

Hebert (20 points) tossed in the first four points of the run, followed by hoops from Emily Eckman and Mills (nine points). Mica Morse hit a late trey for Meadow Heights, but Thayer stood in front 32-28 heading into the final stanza.

"The first half, we let them get too much dribble penetration and second shots. We adjusted at the half and backed off a step to cut the dribble off," Hawkins said. "And I don't remember them getting many second shots, or dribble penetration, in the second half."

Laken Martin knocked down the first two hoops of the fourth to give Thayer a 36-28 lead.

Then, with an eight-point lead on their side, the Lady Bobcats turned things over to Hebert.

She responded with six points in the fourth period and Meadow Heights simply could not mount another charge similar to the one it mustered in the second period.

"She (Hebert) took over in the fourth quarter and wanted the ball," said Hawkins. "And our young kids came in and played well when we had the foul problems -- Lacey (Hawkins) hit a big 3 in the second quarter and Eckman gets a break-away layup and that's the difference in the ballgame."

And the difference between a trip to Columbia or seeing your season end in Poplar Bluff.

Samantha Oakes finished with nine points for Thayer, with Lauren Hargus adding three.

Whitney Welker led Meadow Heights with 11 points, six of those coming in the first period. Heather Dietiker followed with eight.

In the sectionals March 10 at Bess Activity Center on the Three Rivers Community College campus, the Lady Bobcats knocked off Neelyville, the state's third-ranked Class 2 team, 66-51, behind an impressive performance in the paint from Martin.

She tossed in 22 points and pulled down 14 rebounds to lead the Lady Bobcats and Neelyville (26-2) simply had no one that could contend with Martin on the low blocks.

The Lady Tigers jumped in front 12-4 after the first period, but Thayer came roaring back in the second.

Martin, Hebert (18 points) and Hargus (three points) combined for a 6-0 run that broke a 22-all tie, giving Thayer a 26-22 lead at the break, its first lead of the first half.

Mills (15 points) dropped in 10 points, including a pair of triples, in the third period to push the Lady Cats in front 44-37 after three periods of play.

The Lady Tigers tried to fight back in the final frame, but Hebert and Oakes (eight points) kept finding Martin down low and dumping the ball into her, keeping Neelyville from making any kind of run.

Jackie Griffin paced Neelyville with 22 points, while Lindsey Emerson added 10.

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