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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Verona girls hand Purdy Lady Eagles first Ozark 7 loss

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Verona Lady Wildcats' 61-56 home victory over Purdy last night was a big one. The win leveled the Ozark 7 Conference race for Purdy, Verona and the Exeter Lady Tigers. All three now have one conference loss apiece, and whether one team will prevail or all three will wind up as tri-champions is anyone's guess.

Verona viewed Tuesday's game as a must-win. Having already lost to Exeter, the Lady Wildcats could ill afford to fall two games behind Purdy in the conference race so late in the season.
"This team is playing for a purpose," said Verona Coach Ryan Yates. "They are more experienced, more mature and have a little more heart than they did last year."
"Last year" referred to a young Verona team that fell twice to eventual state champion Exeter in the regular season, then played the Lady Tigers to a virtual draw in the Class 1 district final at Aurora, before seeing the game slip away in the final quarter.
Both Purdy and Verona seemed ready to fulfill the hype surrounding this game. Both entered the contest enjoying stellar seasons with wins over big-name and ranked schools.

As is usual for big games, the Verona gym was bursting at the seams. A literally "standing room only" crowd arrived early, intent on seeing the collision between two of the best small-school girls teams in the state.

The Purdy Lady Eagles saw, not the game they expected, but a pair of shadows that didn't look anything like a groundhog. Those shadows were cast instead by Verona's Tristan Carrasquillo and Jessica Smith. The 5'7" junior guards torched Purdy's defense for 23 and 21 points respectively in handing the Lady Eagles their first conference loss of the season.
It was Smith who drove the baseline against the Purdy zone for the game's first basket at 7:34 of the first quarter. Shelby White answered for Purdy shortly after, scoring an uncontested layup on an inbounds play. Only that wisest of rodent prognosticators, Punxsutawney Phil, could have foreseen that except for the opening tip score of 0-0, the 2-2 tie would be the closest Purdy would get to the lead all night.
Carrasquillo and Smith scored 7 and 6 each in the opening quarter. The Purdy girls had a tough start, only launching two shots in the first four minutes as the Verona press forced numerous steals and turnovers.
Shelby Scott finally nailed a trey from the right wing for Purdy to cut the lead to 6-5 midway through the period, but the Lady Wildcats finished the frame on an 11-5 tear and led 17-10 at the end of the quarter.
Purdy recovered composure in the second quarter and outscored the hosts 10-7 while cutting the lead to just 24-20 at halftime. The most important development of the frame was announced with whistles. Both Carrasquillo and Smith were guilty of their third personal fouls before halftime, and the Purdy fans looked confidently to a second half without the two Verona stars.
In the third quarter, Verona reeled off an impressive 22 points to Purdy's 13 to extend the Lady Wildcat lead to 13 points at 46-33. Turnovers and poor rebounding continued to plague the Purdy girls as the Lady Wildcats rode the adrenaline rush of the predominantly purple-clad crowd.

With Purdy desperately needing stops and possessions, Carrasquillo snared an offensive rebound and drew the hoop and harm from Brittany Mareth. The three-point play gave Verona the biggest lead of the game, 49-33.

Then suddenly, Purdy came alive. Alive, as in "a 23-point fourth quarter" alive.
Three quick baskets by White cut the lead to 53-41 with 4:50 to play in the game. Smith sank free throws for Verona, but Addy Roller pitched in a running jumper and Audrey Patton hit free throws to pull Purdy within 10 at 55-45.
The clock leaked time, as the Lady Eagles raced to complete an improbable comeback. Patton drove the baseline and banked in a layup to cut the lead to 6 at 57-51, but only 1:04 remained.
Jenna Chadd converted two more free throws for Verona, then Carrasquillo hit one of two from the line to push the lead to 60-51. Brooke Swadley's desperation trey from the top of the key found the bottom of the net and a 60-54 score.
But with just :29 left, time had run out for Purdy. Patton's score off an offensive rebound with seven ticks left was just window dressing as Verona celebrated the 61-56 victory.
Purdy's Grant Young was gracious in defeat.
"We committed too many turnovers and didn't rebound," he said. "But give them credit for outhustling us and creating extra opportunities with their rebounding and defensive play."
Likewise, Yates was complimentary of the Purdy team.
"They are good," he said, "and I was proud of the way we battled defensively against them. We are playing really good as a team."
Yates also praised the efforts of his players and spoke proudly of how far Jori Dodson has come as a basketball player. Dodson is best known as a fierce volleyball competitor but is providing a big piece of the puzzle that Verona needs to complete to vie for a conference and district championship.
"She is starting to understand the game better, is working hard and growing in her role as a team player," said Yates.
Verona now looks forward to games at Exeter on Feb. 11 and at Purdy on Feb. 26. Those two clashes, plus the Exeter-Purdy rematch on Feb. 18, should finally settle the Ozark 7 Conference championship question.
Verona scorers: Tristan Carrasquillo, 23; Jessica Smith, 21; Jenna Chadd, 9; Beth Bigham, 6; and Jori Dodson, 2.
Purdy scorers: Shelby White, 20; Addy Roller, 17; Audrey Patton, 13; Brooke Swadley, 3; Shelby Scott, 3.



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