Top-Seeded Neelyville Prevails Over Doniphan 54-45 To Capture LRC
BROSELEY - The Neelyville Lady Tigers have put plenty of championship hardware in the trophy case over the past decade from conference and district tournaments and even a Class 2 state title in 2018. But one elusive prize has been the first-place trophy from the Twin Rivers Lady Royals Christmas Classic.
Saturday night, the top-seeded Lady Tigers held off upset-minded Doniphan 54-45 with a strong fourth quarter to win their first LRC title since 2014 after finishing second behind Dexter four consecutive years.
Neelyville, which lost about 80 percent of its lineup to graduation at the end of last season, found its championship spark again behind a pair of juniors after after lone returning starter Lexi Liau went to the bench with her fourth foul.
Payton Reinbott and Makenzi Davis combined for 30 points including 13 in the fourth quarter as the Lady Tigers turned back a determined effort from the second-seeded Donettes, who brought a six-game winning streak into the finals.
Doniphan (7-3) opened the second half with a 7-0 run to take its biggest lead of the game at 26-22. Behind senior Emily Ederer's six points the Donettes led 28-25 with 2:30 left in the quarter. Reinbott's inside basket started a 9-2 run to give the Lady Tigers a 34-30 lead entering the fourth.
Senior Gwyn Scott opened the final period with a long three from the corner and Davis put one in off the glass as Neelyville pushed the lead to 39-30. Doniphan could get no closer than four points the rest of the way.
Both teams were coming off close calls in the semifinals on Friday. Neelyville escaped with a 55-53 win over New Madrid Co. Central while Doniphan held off Naylor 46-37 to reach the LRC championship game for the first time since 2006.
"They scored 20 points in the fourth quarter and probably 17 of them were from right under the basket," said Doniphan coach Adam Epps. "I guess we got tired."
Liau finished with nine points for Neelyville (9-2) and senior Bailey McGruder added eight.
Guard Olivia Cruetz joined Ederer in double figures for Doniphan with 10 apiece. Sophomore guard Sydni Speck came off the bench to add nine.
The matchup between Ozark Foothills Conference teams was the first in the championship game at the LRC since 2010, when Neelyville won its first title over Twin Rivers. Neelyville has won now 47 consecutive games against conference competition dating back to 2015 when Naylor won 53-47 in a regular season game.
Liau, McGruder and Davis were named to the all-tournament team along with Creutz and Ederer from Doniphan. Rounding out the list were Ashanti Jones, Charleston; Alaney Moore, Kelly; Abbey Hester, Twin Rivers; Caroline Patton, Kennett; McKenzie Crofford, Naylor; Shaykyra Wright, NMCC; and Ayannah Ruff, NMCC.