The McDonald County Lady Mustangs had their five-game winning streak snapped and missed out on their chance to share a Big 8 Conference title with Carl Junction, losing 38-32 to the Lady Bulldogs in the regular season finale last Thursday.
The Cassville Lady Wildcats stood in the way of a Class 4, District 12 final spot for the Mustangs, as well as a possible third meeting with Carl Junction, the Wildcats a 45-43 victor over the Carthage Tigers on Monday.
On Thursday, McDonald County attacked Cassville with relentless full-court pressure and used a 15-0 run from the first into the early second quarter to build a 20-6 lead en route to a 31-10 halftime score and 51-26 district semifinal victory Thursday night at the Cardinal Dome.
Cassville ended with 23 turnovers, including 11 in the first quarter and 17 in the first half, as the Mustangs built a big lead with a 11-0 run over the second and third quarters and then another 7-0 spurt in the third. After the 7-0, McDonald County led 41-12.
That was all part of the plan for McDonald County head coach Blake Short.
"We wanted to pressure them and take care of business as quick as we could," Short said. "Get some easy ones to get us going. We got a little stagnant after we had a couple runs, but for the most part, we did what we wanted to do, took care of business and stayed healthy."
The Mustangs scored the first five points of the game in a matter of 43 seconds, with a Preslea Reece basket, a Coley Ickes split at the line and an Ickes basket, a steal-and-score with the steal and the assist from Dakota Bunch.
Cassville handled the pressure for the first time all game and managed to gain a 6-5 lead with six straight points, including interior baskets from Brooke Fields and 6-foot-2 freshman Madi Stokes. That's when McDonald County hit Cassville with the 15-0.
The next time Cassville pieced together a significant scoring run, the Wildcats started from a 41-12 deficit and their 9-0 run only cut their deficit to 20.
Reece and Ickes each led with the Mustangs with 16 points and Reece's absence due to foul trouble helped Cassville string together its only sustained run in the contest, over the last 3:11 of the third as Reece sat with four personal fouls.
Cendy Garcia, a third senior McDonald County starter, enjoyed a consistent effort with nine points, spreading out her points very evenly over four quarters.
The good news for Cassville was that eight players reached the scoring column. The bad news was that Fields led the Wildcats with seven points and half of the eight scorers each had two.
Saturday at 6 p.m. will be the rubber match for McDonald County and Carl Junction, since the Bulldogs knocked off the defending District 12 champion Webb City on its home court, building a 26-13 halftime lead en route to a 50-27 final in the second girls semifinal of the night.
"All three of us are so equal that really any of the three could win," Short said before the Carl Junction-Webb City game. "Whoever hits a shot here or there is going to be who wins. Either one, it's going to be a tough test."
The Bulldogs relied heavily on a senior and a freshman for 30 of their points, 16 from senior Brenlee McPherson and 14 from Megan Scott, and then had seven points from Alex Vogt and six from Skylar Sadler.
In her final high school game, Webb City standout and Missouri Southern recruit Desirea Buerge led the Cardinals with 11 points.
Recent district history: McDonald County lost in the semis last season, 52-42 to Nevada. Two years ago, McDonald County lost in the first round to Carl Junction. Three years ago, McDonald County lost in the semis to Aurora. McDonald County won a district title in 2011.
McDONALD COUNTY 51, CASSVILLE 26
CASS 6 4 11 5 — 26
McD 18 13 11 9 — 51
CASSVILLE (11-15 ) — Brooke Fields 7, Madi Stokes 4, Raeghan Blisard 4, Kaileigh Gorski 3, Hallie Long 2, Devyn Callahan 2, Macey Parsons 2, Kandace Wallace 2.
McDONALD COUNTY (19-7) — Coley Ickes 16, Preslea Reece 16, Cendy Garcia 9, Baili Nelson 4, Tricia Wattman 2, Caitlyn Sedillos 2, Dakota Bunch 1, Cheyenne Greenup 1.