The East Newton girls knew they’d have a tough road to claim the Class 3, District 12 title this season.
Despite facing a loaded bracket, the Lady Patriots managed to escape the defending state champions in Mount Vernon on Friday, 36-33, to advance to the title game. But there it all came to an end on Saturday as they fell 46-31 to Ash Grove.
The Lady Pirates (22-6) were no easy task. They had seven players score on the night, led by Halee Cashio with 10 points. And while they led most of the way, the Lady Patriots remained within arms length until late in the fourth quarter when the Lady Pirates pulled away in the quarter, 20-13.
“I told the girls Ash Grove is probably one of the better class three teams in the state,” East Newton coach Marty Rinehart said. “We did enough things tonight to win the game, and that’s what we talked about at the beginning of the year was to be able to put ourselves in this situation.
“I thought we did a good job of competing and doing just that.”
Senior leadership was a big key for the Lady Patriots as Whitney Thomlinson, Shelbey Thomlinson and Haley Heilig each contributed to their success all season. Heilig led the Lady Patriots on Saturday with 11 points, while Shelbey Thomlinson added six and Whitney Thomlinson five.
“I’m really proud of our three seniors,” Rinehart added. “I thought they stepped up and played the best basketball of their careers here in the last part of the season. We challenged them to step up and be leaders, and they really did that down the stretch.”
Ash Grove took a 7-6 lead at the end of the first quarter on a buzzer-beater by Weinreis. They stretched that lead to 16-11 at the half and 22-18 at the end of the third quarter.
The Lady Patriots closed the season at 18-10 overall.
“One through 17, it’s the best group of kids I’ve ever got to work with,” Rinehart said. “They’re good students, they don’t cause any problems, they work hard. They’ve just really, really been a pleasure to work with.”