By Will Willems firstname.lastname@example.org – Feb 2, 2019
Cloverdale — The theme for the Western Boone girls basketball team all year has been “unfinished business.”
They took a big step towards completely that business Saturday night. The Lady Stars held off a late charge from host Cloverdale, and won the sectional 44 title 62-56.
“Our theme this year was ‘unfinished business,’ because last year we felt like we blew it,” Western Boone head coach Megan Alexander said. “We had business to take care. All season long, we have been getting better for moments like this. They girls deserve it.”
It was the first sectional title since 2014 for the Lady Stars.
Since that win, the Stars had gone 0-2 in sectional title games, and suffered a one-point loss to South Putnam a season ago. Those tough losses made Saturday night’s win even sweeter.
“We have been pushing for this since day one,” senior Madison Jones said. “We have been working since October to get this, and coach kept on pushing us in practice. It feels amazing.”
The Stars had to fight to the end to get the win.
Western Boone led 47-38 heading to the fourth quarter, but a 7-0 run brought Cloverdale within 49-47 with 5:26 to go.
“We knew Cloverdale was a great team, and they were going to make a run,” Alexander said. “We really didn’t change much, they just upped their game for that stretch. Tori Wilkinson played a fantastic game, but got some fouls and that changed what we could do defensively. She came back in for the last few minutes, and that was a difference maker.”
After the teams traded baskets, Cloverdale had a chance to tie the game with their star Tori Combs on the line. But she missed the front-end of a 1-and-1, and Jones scored on the other end to make it a four-point game.
Combs was fouled on the ensuing possession, and missed the front-end again, with Jones getting fouled on the other end and hitting two free throws to make it a six-point game with 1:27 to go.
Cloverdale was forced to take quick shots and gamble offensively on their next possessions with time winding down, and Western Boone was able to see the game out.
“Closing games hasn’t always been our best trait,” Alexander said. “We put the ball in our leaders hands, and let her go to work.”
Jones finished with a game-high 35 points, moving into 28th on the state’s all-time scoring list with 2,084 points.
But it was her teammates that kept the Stars in the game early.
Jones missed eight of her nine shots in the first quarter, only having two points.
But Hillary Reed scored five, while Kara Brewer (12 points) and Lauryn Florey each had three, keeping Western Boone within 15-13 after a quarter.
The Stars were down 24-19 with 3:50 left in the first half, when Jones started to get going, scoring 10 points in a 12-3 run to end the half to give Western Boone a 31-27 lead.
“It is a night and day difference for us when they are making plays,” Alexander said. “If we can get a balanced scoring attack, and more effort from everybody on the offensive and defensive end, it makes it easier. Then it isn’t all on one kids shoulders, and Madison is human, she is allowed to miss shots too. Her teammates stepping up, that is what we do and what a team does.”
Brewer finished with 12, with Florey and Reed each adding six.
“We have been doing that all year, but the other girls took a backseat for a couple games there at the end of the season,” Alexander continued. “Our focus was to get back to that. Last night (a one-point win over Monrovia) was a wake-up call and the other girls knew they had to come out and play well if we were going to win this. Lauryn Florey was excellent with her rebounding, Hillary Reed was great with her defense and handling the ball, Kara made some big shots, it was just a great game.”
Next up for the Stars is a match-up in the regional with No. 13 Covenant Christian (18-8) at 10 a.m. at Speedway.
The second game will feature No. 2 Triton Central (23-1) and No. 4 Winchester (23-3). Alexander said the Stars will be ready to go.
“Our regional is really a tough regional, but I think 2A is wide open,” Alexander said. “I think the girls believe that, and the girls know the teams we have had to compete with all year. I think we are ready, and I think the girls are ready to compete at that next level.”