BY TRAVIS DAVID
MONROE CITY — Monroe City was forced to pick its poison in Friday night’s Class 3 District 7 Championship game. The Lady Panthers knew No. 6 South Calaway could light up the scoreboard in a hurry from the outside.
Forced to take the ball to the inside, the Bulldogs made Monroe City pay.
South Callaway (19-2) had its way with the Panthers on the inside most of the night and the end result was a 74-59 season-ending loss for No. 2 ranked Monroe City.
Columbia College signee Delaney Horstman drove the lane and scored on the Bulldogs’ second possession for a 2-0 lead. South Callaway would not relinquish the advantage in the wire-to-wire win.
“We have watched them all season and knew they would be the best offensive team we have faced,” Monroe City coach Cody Leonard said of the Bulldogs. “They just have so many stinking weapons. We wanted to try and limit the number of threes they got because when they get in a groove from the 3-point line it can be over in the first quarter.”
South Callaway did not hit a three in the first quarter, but it still managed to run away from the Panthers. A fadeaway jumper by Horstman gave the Bulldogs a 16-6 lead with 79 seconds left in the period.
South Callaway led 19-10 heading into the second.
Paige Clubb had back-to-back finishes at the rim — in a span of seven seconds — to push the Bulldogs’ lead to 28-15 with just under four minutes left in the half.
South Callaway carried a 32-18 lead into the break.
“We just gave them too many good opportunities,” Leonard said. “It seemed like we left one player unguarded every time down the floor and we did not do a good enough job of getting over to help.”
The Monroe City defense did not allow a three-pointer in the first half. But the Bulldogs hit four big ones in the third.
Hailee Potter opened the second-half scoring with a triple to spark a 7-2 spurt out of the gate and a commanding 19-point lead.
Then the Panthers found a little momentum.
Hallie Dyer nailed a three from the wing before converting an old-fashioned three-point play.
After Riley Quinn hit a pair of freebies and the Panthers’ defense came up with another steal, Haley Hagen took a pass from Bailee Hays and finished at the rim to cap a quick 10-0 run.
The spurt came in a span of 74 seconds and pulled the Panthers to within 39-30 with 4:17 left in the third.
Then came the dagger.
After a timeout by South Callaway, Potter was left alone in the left corner and drilled a three to push the lead back to 12 points.
Potter would add her third trey of the quarter two possessions later before Clubb hit a step-back three from the top of the key to extend the lead to 50-34 with 2:22 left in the quarter.
“We showed a lot of fight there in the second half, but those threes were backbreakers,” Leonard said.
Dyer hit her fifth and final three-pointer of the game to pull the Panthers to within 59-48 with 5:27 left on the clock, but the South Callaway lead would not be trimmed any closer the rest of the game.
Clubb, a Southern Illinois University signee, led the Bulldogs with a game-high 27 points. Horstman added 19 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots, while Raegan Brown tallied 18 points.
In her final basketball game, Quinn paced the Panthers with 24 points to go along with eight boards and three blocked shots.
Dyer finished with 20 points, also in her final game in a Panthers uniform.
“Our seniors (Quinn, Dyer, Hays and Clara Minor) have been a big part of our program,” Leonard said with a cracking voice. “They won a district as sophomores. A 23-3 season (this season) is nothing to be ashamed of and I am thrilled to death of how hard they all played. It was a heck of a season.”
Hagan, just a sophomore, finished with 13 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.