Epic battle finds Incarnate Word on top in Class 5
Neither team was willing to accept defeat.
But somebody had to lose. Incarnate Word had pulled ahead after the first quarter of a crucial game — with the winner going to the Final Four of the state's Class 5 girls basketball finals.
St. Joseph's Academy battled back to within four points late in the fourth quarter, but Incarnate Word wouldn't let go. With key free throws, rebounds and steals as the game wound down, Incarnate Word left the Mark Twain Building on the University of Missouri St. Louis campus with a 49-42 win.
"I knew it was going to be a battle," said Incarnate Word's 6'3" center Taylor Manuel. "St. Joseph is a good team. It was very exciting."
Manuel said she wasn't nervous as she knocked down key free throws with about 30 seconds left making the score 48-42. She noted that players shoot 60 to 80 free throws at each practice.
Manuel credited her team's defense and rebounding, their energy and ability to stick together in adversity. "We never give up no matter how much we're down. The coaches and players lift us up."
She praised her opponent. "They're well coached. Those girls gave everything they had."
Incarnate Word was to play Columbia Rock Bridge March 8 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo., with the winner advancing to the finals Saturday, March 10. Rock Bridge defeated Incarnate Word 46-39 at a tournament in January.
Incarnate Word coach Dan Rolfes said his team's defense was the key, with his players sticking close to the good shooters on St. Joseph's, contesting their shots.
He also cited the fourth-quarter plays, including a three-point basket by Nakiah Bell and key free throws.
St. Joseph's led 9-7 after the first quarter, but Incarnate Word outscored its Catholic school rival 18-8 in the second quarter and never lost the lead. The fourth quarter was marked by some intense play, with players from both sides fighting for loose balls. Though St. Joseph's shooting went cold a couple times and Incarnate Word went on a couple good runs, St. Joseph's battled back, making it close in the fourth quarter with free throws and a three-pointer by Maddie Stock.
"Neither team was going to give up. Your season is on the line," Rolfes said.
He noted the "huge tradition" with the all-girls schools. Both sides packed the gym, with students especially vocal in cheering. "There's great support on both sides. It's a great rivalry," Rolfes said. "They're a very good team with excellent players."
Incarnate Word guard Lateesha Deloach, like Manual a senior, said the plan was to "go hard and push. We had to keep up the intensity, we had to go hard."
Manuel scored 12 points and Cierra Young had 11 points to lead Incarnate Word, which improved its record to 25-6. Bell and Deloach had nine points each. St. Joseph's ended its season with a 25-6 record. Coach Julie Matheny was disappointed but gracious in defeat, noting that the teams have a mutual respect for one another. "You have to give them credit. They made buckets. We couldn't get a bucket to make it closer."
Incarnate Word had advanced to the quarterfinals with a 63-28 win over Parkway South, led by Young's 15 points. St. Joseph's had advanced with a 54-21 win over Jackson, led by Sydney Stipanovich's 21 points.
Last year Incarnate Word won its second Missouri State High School Activities Association basketball title in a row. The team defeated Blue Springs 59-49 at Mizzou Arena to finish the year 27-4.
In Class 5 boys action at UMSL, St. John Vianney's magical season came to an end with a 63-54 loss to Mccluer North. Seniors Tony Cochran had 15 points and Brad Woodson had 14 for Vianney, which ended the year 27-2. Vianney had advanced with a 65-42 win over Troy Buchanan, with Cochran getting 18 points to lead his team.
Another Catholic school from the archdiocese, Christian Brothers College High School, lost 66-53 to Marquette. Jordan Barnett had 11 points and Aarion Penton had 10 for CBC, which ended its year 19-11. CBC had advanced with a 68-52 win over Cape Girardeau Central. Jared Barnes led the team that game with 17 points.
In Class 4, Duchesne lost to Soldan 61-43 in another quarterfinal. Senior Trevor Tune had 18 points and sophomore Ryan Tune had 13. the team ended the year 20-9. They had advanced with a 51-48 win over Mexico in overtime, with Drew Moore scoring 17 points.
Teams in Classes 1-3 continue play leading up to quarterfinals March 10.
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