By Steven Kochersperger
The final game of the girls basketball season looked to be a mirror image of how the year went for the Mount Vernon Wildcats. The Lady Cats closed the regular season Thursday evening with a back and fourth game that ended in dramatics and overtime. While the Cats have been on the losing end of these types of games several times this season, Thursday’s outcome would not be the same as the Wildcats came on strong in overtime to beat the Memorial Tigers 61-56.
The game began with Sophomore Alexis Nall picking up the first four points for Mount Vernon as the Cats took an early 4-2 lead. But Memorial would come out even stronger and went on a 10-0 run in the first period as they ran the court and hit almost every shot they put up on their way to a 12-4 lead.
But Mount Vernon Senior Ellen Foster did not want her last game at home to be a blowout and took control of the remainder of the period hitting two big three pointers to pull the Wildcats within four at 14-10 at the end of the opening period.
The Cats would see some of the same in the second period as Memorial continued to take advantage of the Wildcats passing errors and sloppy play. The Tigers opened the period on a 7-1 run as they opened up their lead to ten at 21-11. But the Cats would have a run of their own to answer Memorial. Mount Vernon found Strobel for a layup and Alexis Nall several times as the Cats went on a 7-0 run to get right back in the contest in the second period at 21-18. Nall would score the final four points of the second period for Mount Vernon and the Cats felt lucky to be down just three heading into halftime at 25-22.
Mount Vernon would continue to fight but not make much headway in the third period of play. Ellen Foster opened the period with a jumper to pull her team within a point at 25-24 before hitting a pair of free throws to take the lead just a minute later at 26-25. The Tigers would once again answer though with a 5-0 run to pull ahead at 30-26. Not much would change in that third period and the Tigers took a 40-34 lead into the final period confident in what they were doing.
Heading into the final period of play Mount Vernon head coach Steve Mitchell believed his girls still had the fight in them to get back in the game and win. And that they did. After layups by Nall, Strobel, and Erin Wolf the Wildcats found themselves down just two points at 44-42. And just when things have gone well this season the Wildcats have noticed that adversity follows. It was at this point in the game that senior Ellen Foster picked up her fifth foul and had to sit the rest of the way. And while many teams would pack it in or hang their heads the Wildcats continued to fight without their senior leader.
Nall would score six straight points in the fourth period to eventually help her team tie the Tigers at 48-48 with over a minute left in the contest.
The Tigers hit a big three pointer with 52.4 seconds left to give Memorial the 51-48 lead. Stefanie Bulla’s shot went in with just 13.9 left to pull the Wildcats within one at 51-50 before the Tigers hit a pair of free throws to go ahead at 53-50 with just a few seconds to go. That is when the fight paid off for the Wildcats. Erin Wolf received the pass, stepped back behind the three point line and let it fly at the buzzer. All in attendance seemed to stand still and then cheer as Wolf’s buzzer beater tied the game at 53-53 to send the game to overtime.
In overtime the Wildcats gave the ball mostly to Alexis Nall as she scored six of the final eight Wildcat points to send Mount Vernon home winners against Memorial Thursday night 61-56.
That wild game was one that coach Mitchell was glad to get and it showed after the game. “That was a fitting way to end the season,” Mitchell said.”That was a wild game to end a wild season. It wasn’t a pretty game but our girls hung in there and I am proud of them. I wanted them to win so bad and am glad for the seniors that we did.”
Those two seniors, Ellen Foster and Cheyenne Strobel, were emotional but greatful after the contest saying they have taken away so much from their four years playing in Mount Vernon. “It’s hard for this to be the last year,” Strobel said after the game. “I am appreciative of all the things that I have learned through the years as a part of this program. I’ve learned to be a leader, respect everyone, fear no one. Its been the best four years of my life.”
Foster agreed and added that her time as a Wildcat helped make her who she is now. “Playing here has made me grow as a person,” Foster said. “All the adversity we have faced and what we have gone through together has helped me be a better person. All the girls that I have played with are family to me and I love each and every one of them.”
Foster and Strobel have added so much to the program these past four years and coach Mitchell is proud that he has had the opportunity to coach them. “These two have stuck with the game and program and we will miss them,” Mitchell said. “They are going to be successful in everything they do.”
Alexis Nall ended the contest Thursday leading the Wildcats in scoring with 31 points. Foster added 12 in her final home game and Strobel had five as well.
The Wildcats end their regular season with an overall record of 11-9 and now head to the sectionals with the task of taking on the number one ranked team in the state, Mater Dei. The Wildcats will take all the lessons this season has given and will give it all they have Tuesday night in Boonville. Gametime for that contest is 7 p.m.
By Steven Kochersperger