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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Miller beats defending champs

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hannah Wilkerson and the Miller Lady Cardinals pulled the monumental upset Wednesday night, rocking defending state champs Sparta, 58-54 in their Class 2 regional game at Republic. For Miller, it was a great step forward for the girls program. But for Sparta, it was a difficult loss, "technically" speaking.

A great game between two great schools, played out in one of the finest new facilities in southwest Missouri, will be remembered for one of the most bizarre plays in MSHSAA playoff history.
The two teams battled neck and neck through the first half with Miller squeezing out a 16-14 lead after the first quarter, and leading by the same margin at halftime, 29-27. Sparta's Kayla Coffer outdueled scoring champ Wilkerson, 18-14 in the first 16 minutes of play. But the Lady Cardinals twice led by three in the final 2:30 of the second quarter until Sparta's Mikalah Hardcastle hit one of two from the line with no time left to set the halftime score at 29-27.
Wilkerson led Miller to a 7-point lead early in the third, but Sparta crept back and tied the game on Coffer's three-point play in the final minute. The teams were gridlocked at 43-43 at the final break.
The stunning start of the fourth quarter will be message board fodder for weeks to come.
Miller had the ball out of bounds at half court to begin the final period. Before the ball was handed to the Miller triggerman, one of the Sparta players was ordered off the court to address a medical situation. When Sparta's Jerry Songer took his sweet time selecting a substitute, the official handed the ball to Miller, play began and Sparta only had four players on the court.
In hockey, it's called a power play. In basketball, it is one of the rarest of situations, usually only seen when one team has more players foul out than it has substitutes. In this highly-charged playoff game, it was devastating for Sparta.
Songer hurried Nicole Dowdy off the bench and sent her into the fray just as Wilkerson took advantage of the numerical mismatch and nailed a trey with 7:23 on the clock. Miller's Brandon Weiss ran onto the court to protest the sudden entrance of Dowdy who was never given clearance from the official scorer. Following a brief but heated discussion involving officials and both coaches, Sparta was whistled for a technical foul.
Wilkerson swished both free throws with the court vacated, and then Miller had possession on the side, leading 48-43. The Lady Cardinals extended the lead to 52-44 with 3:54 to play, enjoying a 9-1 run to start the fourth against an obviously shaken Sparta team.
Back-to-back treys by Sparta's Torie Coffer and Kayla Coffer pulled the Lady Trojans within 2 at 54-52 just inside the two-minute mark.
Wilkerson, the coolest of competitors, went suddenly cold from the line. She hit one of two to give Miller a 3-point lead, but Coffer's baby hook for Sparta cut the lead to 55-54 with only 1:21 to play.
Miller went to its stall game, with Wilkerson dribbling in circles at the top of the key. Sparta surrounded her with a triple team but still could not steal or force her to pick up her dribble. Courtney Baughman finally fouled the Miller ace with 51 ticks remaining.
Again, Wilkerson only hit one of her two opportunities from the line, and Sparta was down by only 56-54 with the clock running. Wilkerson stripped Coffer but was whistled for a foul with :40 remaining. Coffer missed badly on the one-and-one chance, and Wilkerson came away with the rebound. Baughman fouled her again with only :27 to play.
This time, Wilkerson stepped to the line in the double bonus situation and promptly missed both shots. With the Miller crowd reeling, Sparta called a strategy timeout with :21 left.
Sparta's Leslie Stevens drove the baseline against Miller's Jessica Cook and drew the foul with :18 on the clock. Stephens missed her lone free throw attempt, but Miller knocked the ball out of bounds over the endline. With time slipping away, the Lady Trojans committed a costly turnover on the inbounds play.
Sparta's Frankie Grimes fouled Nicole Adams immediately to send the Miller senior to the line with :10 left. While Wilkerson failed in her opportunity to put the game out of reach, Adams did not. She calmly hit both chances to give Miller the 58-54 lead and dashed Sparta's hopes for back-to-back titles.
The Lady Trojans finished their season with a 27-3 record. Miller improved to 26-4 with the victory and will play Osceola at Willard on Saturday at 6 p.m. The winner will advance to the Show-Me Showdown in Columbia, as one of the four remaining teams in Class 2.
Miller scorers: Hannah Wilkerson 29; Jessica Cook 14; Nicole Adams 7; Betsy Epps 6; and Kaitlin Johnson 2.
Sparta scorers: Kayla Coffer 32; Mikalah Hardcastle 13; Torie Coffer 6; and Courtney Baughman 3.

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