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Friday, May 6, 2016

Hower power leads Tribe to Columbia

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Alex Hower was out of gas and her body could take no more.

Lying at midcourt, wrything in immense pain after being disabled by a severe case of leg cramps, it looked like Couch's senior point guard was done for the afternoon.

But as it turns out, Hower's tank was not completely dry.

Meadow Heights' was.

Buoyed by a performance for the ages from Hower, the Couch Lady Indians slid past the Meadow Heights Lady Panthers 59-50 in a double-overtime epic, March 12, at Bearcat Events Center on the campus of Dexter High School in the Class 2 state quarterfinals.

The victory over Meadow Heights sends Couch back to Columbia for the second time in three years, where the Lady Indians are slated opposite North Platte (22-6) in the semi-final round, March 17, at Hearnes Center on the University of Missouri campus.

The Lady Indians (25-3), ranked number three in Class 2, certainly had their hands full with the Lady Panthers (25-4), who came into the game as the fourth-ranked team in the state.

And befitting a physical, heavyweight battle like this one, four periods of play was simply not enough to determine a victor.

"Everyone wanted to know all week how we matched up with them and I said it was a 50-50 game," said Couch Head Coach Ceil Meyer. "I said it would probably come down to the last play and it came down to the last play three or four times, probably."

Tied at 39-all after four, Hower scored Couch's first three points of the first OT, before she literally fell over with leg cramps at the 2:02 mark of overtime.

Hower would later recover, but the Lady Panthers pulled ahead 44-42 on an old-fashioned 3-point play from Whitney Welker with 35 seconds left in the stanza.

Sarah Neptune (13 points) shaved a point off the lead with a free throw for Couch, but Welker hit two straight from the charity stripe to boost Meadow Heights' lead to 46-43 with 11 ticks left.

But looking like she had never been sidelined just a couple of minutes earlier, Hower took a dribble handoff from Neptune and hit a huge 3-ball from the right wing that beat the buzzer, stunning the Lady Panthers and sending the game into a second overtime, with the scored deadlocked at 46-all.

Believe it or not, Hower was just getting warmed up.

She nailed another triple to start the second OT, giving the Lady Indians the lead for good.

Then for good measure, Hower went six-for-six from the free throw line in the last 48 seconds of the second overtime to give Couch an amazing 59-50 win over Meadow Heights.

Fifteen of Hower's game-high 27 points came in the two overtime periods, when the Lady Indians needed them the most.

"For the fourth quarter and overtimes, Alex was unrelievable," Meyer said. "Late in the third quarter she was wanting a break and I said, 'No. You're just going to have to get down there and rebound the ball.' We just didn't have a chance to get her a break."

The game was close from the outset, with neither side able to open a whole lot of breathing space.

Couch held an 8-5 advantage after the first period, but Meadow Heights managed to pull in front 23-19 at intermission.

Couch was able to spread the Lady Panthers out a bit in the second half, allowing the Lady Indians' guards to penetrate the lane and attack the rim.

"We talked at halftime about how they were guarding us and made some adjustments on who was setting screens. People they weren't guarding in the first half we were making screeners, so they were either going to be open, or they were going to have to guard someone," said Meyer. "And we were able to get our guards to the basket a little bit more."

By the end of the third, the Lady Indians had moved ahead by a tight 27-26 count.

Jordon Hale (eight points) hit a big 3-ball midway into the fourth, and Cassie Roberts (six points) added a layup, but Meadow Heights remained within striking distance.

With two minutes left in the fourth, Lizzie Nessling (five points), who battled foul problems a good bit of the game, knocked down two free throws to give Couch a 39-36 lead.

But the Lady Indians could not put Meadow Heights away, missing the front-end of three straight one-and-ones in the last 1:23.

The Lady Panthers capitalized on this when Mica Morse sank a 3-pointer with 26 ticks left that sent the game into its first overtime.

But luckily for the Lady Indians, Alex Hower was not yet ready to hang up her jersey for good.

"My kids just took care of the ball and got good shots late -- understood what we wanted them to do," Meyer said.

And that was good enough for a weekend in Columbia.

Welker's 21 points paced Meadow Heights.

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