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Putnam County Wins TRC Girls’ Championship
By David Sharp
Knox County traveled to Putnam County with a chance to win their first girls’ conference championship since 1991. The Lady Eagles could tie Putnam County with a victory. The Tri-Rivers Conference does not employ tiebreakers. Clark County has won 14 of the last 16 girls conference titles according to Putnam County coaches.
Putnam County overcame a lopsided Knox County height and rebounding advantage with a strong shooting performance in February 20, Tri-Rivers Conference action at Putnam County. The Lady Midgets secured the 2008-09 girls’ conference basketball championship with a 53-45 victory.
The Lady Eagles erased a seven point first half deficit by returning the firepower favor. Lorrie Peters hammered home an offensive board followed by Tessa Ramer’s three point play with 5:14 remaining in the second quarter.
Putnam County claimed a 15-10 first period edge. The seven point Knox County streak knotted the score at 17. The Lady Midgets (16-5, 6-0) answered with a nine point run to a 26-17 lead with two minutes to play until intermission.
The home team extended their edge to 31-20 at the half. Knox County had a good first half on the boards. The Lady Eagles (13-11, 5-2) pulled down 16 boards in the first two quarters and 31 overall. Putnam County was limited to 19 unofficial rebounds on the night.
Lady Midget sharp shooting from the field and 12 Knox County turnovers helped create the first half result. Putnam County stole the basketball six times in the first 16 minutes.
Knox County did a better job of shielding possession in the second half. Putnam County finished with seven steals. Knox County completed the contest with an unofficial 18 turnovers to 11 for the home team.
The Lady Eagles dished out some of the Lady Midget’s own medicine at the start of period three. Tessa Ramer sandwiched a three ball between a pair of Stacey Leckbee home run balls. Knox County got defensive stops. The 11-3 Lady Eagle run pulled the conference championship contending visitors within a 33-31 deficit at the 3:45 mark of the third quarter.
Lorrie Peters pulled the Lady Eagles within a point at 34-33 with 2:32 showing on the clock. Putnam County had great movement and screens. Knox County defended well, but the Lady Midgets did not miss many scoring chances.
Katie Steele gave Putnam County a 36-33 lead at the 2:05 mark of period three. Katie Ausmus scrapped her team to a 36 all tie with 1:39 showing on the clock.
Katie Ausmus sank a KCHS free throw. Ausmus missed the second try, but hustled to the rebound. She drew a foul and sank two more free throws for the 36-36 tie.
Putnam County responded to the challenge with the next eight unanswered points. Katie Steele finished a sharp passing play with four seconds to play in the quarter. The Lady Midgets took a 40-36 lead. The conference championship would be decided in the next eight minutes of basketball.
Knox County turnovers hurt the Lady Eagle cause early in the fourth quarter. Katie Steele grabbed a rebound and scored for a 44-36 PC lead with 7:06 to play in the game.
The Lady Eagles fought back within four points but could get no closer. Lorrie Peters cashed in Tessa Ramer’s feed, pulling Knox County to a 46-42 deficit with 4:42 showing on the clock.
Knox County had five critical possessions near the end of the game where Putnam County got defensive stops, or the Lady Eagles turned the ball over.
Knox County got a steal around the three minute mark. The lay up at the other end missed the mark. Brandy Shultz tossed in two Putnam County free throws for a 50-42 lead. Stacey Leckbee stole the ball, was fouled on the scoring attempt and sank a free throw for a 50-44 deficit at the 1:51 juncture of the fourth quarter.
Putnam County extended their lead to 53-44 with 40 seconds to play. “Our girls play pretty good defense and they play together on offense,” said Lady Midget coach Mike Schmidli. “We won several conference games by two or four points. We give up size all over the place. Knox (County) has two of the best post players in the conference.”
“Our four senior basketball players have been in a lot of big situations,” said Coach Schmidli. “They did a lot of things right down the stretch. After Knox County made their run, they got us settled down. They made plays down the stretch.”
Putnam County sank 12 of 16 free throws for 75% on the night. Knox County was 11-21 for 52% from the charity stripe. The Lady Eagles dished out ten assists with six steals on the night. The home team sank five three pointers to four for Knox County.
Katie Steele scored a game high 17 points with three Putnam County assists. Jamie Mullenix and Brandy Shultz scored 11 points each. Mullenix led the Lady Midgets with seven rebounds.
“When you are on the road in an environment like this you have to do all the little things right,” said Knox County coach John Weaver. “We turned it over too many times. We had some mental lapses. We gave them everything they wanted for a time. In the end, they showed why they are undefeated in the conference.”
“We fought back and did some really good things in the third quarter,” said Weaver. “You are dealing with five guards out there that are strong. They can play the post. They can play anywhere on the court. We knew we had to fight through the screens and get a hand in their face or they would knock them down.”
Tessa Ramer led the Lady Eagles with 15 points and three assists. Lorrie Peters scored 11 points with as many rebounds. Amanda Woods scored seven points with eight rebounds. Stacey Leckbee scored seven points with four steals.
Katie Ausmus scored five points with an equal number of assists. Knox County finishes their regular season Thursday night in Atlanta. Fourth seeded Knox County takes on five seed Scotland County on March 3 in the first round of the Marceline Class 2 district.
The winner of the first round game between the Lady Eagles and Tigers will challenge Putnam County in 4:30 PM district semi-final action on Thursday, March 5. Knox County’s top seeded boys play the next game at 6PM.
The Marceline girls’ district championship game is Saturday, March 7at 2PM. “We still like our chances,” said John Weaver. “Their defense was great tonight. They packed the post in the fourth quarter and got some steals off of that. This late in the season, teams that execute in the fourth quarter will move on and the others will go home.”