For the first time since the 1978 season, a basketball team from Marceline High School will be playing in this week's Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) State Championships. This team, though, is the first girls team in school history, as far as this reporter's research could turn up, to go this far.
(Correction: The Marceline Lady Tigers from the 1975 team were actually the first team to head to the Final Four in school history. We apologize for this error, and meant no slight to the 1975 Marceline girls team.)
"It's an amazing feeling," said Kendra Gladbach. "We seniors have talked about this since we were in third grade. We didn't care what we did when got there, we just wanted to make it."
The Lady Tigers (27-3) play this Thursday at Noon at the Hearnes Center in Columbia in the State Semifinal game. They will do battle with New Haven (20-10).
To earn this opportunity at history, the Lady Tigers did battle with the Sturgeon Bulldogs at Moberly Area Community College. It was a very exciting game, and both schools had plenty of fans to fill the arena.
Sturgeon struck first, and Madison McCormick answered back with the first of her many baskets in this game. Both teams struggled in the first quarter to find the hoop successfully. The Bulldogs pulled ahead by three points at the 3:38 mark, and would hold that same lead after one quarter, 11-8.
The Lady Tigers deficit would grow to five points with a Sturgeon hoop to open the second frame at the 2:36 mark. A hoop by Madison and a free throw from Morgan McCormick would pull Marceline within a point at the 5:59 mark for a short Lady Tigers run. A free throw by Molly Shoop would tie the had at 15 all with just under a minute left in the half. A late rally would put Marceline down 18-15 at halftime.
A pair of Sturgeon free throws would start scoring in the second half, but a hoop by Morgan would answer at the 1:05 mark. The teams would exchange baskets for a good portion of this quarter, but a bucket by Morgan at the 4:19 mark would give the Lady Tigers their first lead of the game. After three quarters, this game was tied 29-29.
A mere eight minutes of game time separated one team from a trip to Columbia, and the other from a disappointing trip home.
A Sturgeon free throw opened the final frame to put Marceline down. But Abby Gauthier found Madison for a basket 43 seconds in to give the Lady Tigers back the lead.
Madison scored the first six points for the Lady Tigers in the fourth quarter, and would total 21 in the game. The last time the Marceline girls would trail in this game was with less than a minute left in the game, and was remedied by a pair of clutch free throws from Kendra Gladbach.
Page 2 of 2 - With a lead late, and both teams in the bonus, the Lady Tigers would get four more late free throws from Madison and Gauthier to seal the deal. Marceline cried tears of joy as the buzzer sounded on a 41-37 Quarterfinal win.