Wildcats display championship form
Petty, Gonzalez big as De Soto defends Louisburg tourney title
The box score of Saturday's championship game at the Louisburg Women's Basketball Tournament doesn't tell the whole story.
By looking only at the scoring columns and the score by quarters, it might be assumed that De Soto guards Amy Petty and Kira Gonzalez carried the Wildcats to a second-straight Louisburg championship on their own. It might also appear simply that the Wildcats trailed by three points at halftime and then took control in the second half.
Louisburg, which dropped to 6-6 with the 63-56 loss to De Soto, did not play like a .500 club. The host team dominated action for most of the game with hot outside shooting. The runner-up made six of 14 3-pointers on the night and led by nine points halfway through the third period.
That's when Petty took control to get the 9-3 Wildcats back into the game. The senior guard began to climb out of the hole by scoring eight points in the final two minutes of the third frame, knotting the game at 45-45 going into the fourth period.
Her 3-pointer from the top of the key with 41 seconds left in the period tied the game. Petty tallied 12 of her game-high 23 points in the third quarter.
"That was huge," De Soto coach Dwight Spencer said of his team's ability to reach back even going into the final period. "We hadn't been able to bounce back until that point. They were hitting their shots. They can flat out shoot the ball well on a consistent basis."
Petty said the team realized it would take more than long-range shooting to defend its title.
"When we finally tied the game, we said we were going to take the lead and not give it back," she said. "They are such wonderful shooters. You also want to do it on the other end, but it doesn't always work out for you. That's when you have to realize that getting the ball inside helps just as much."
Gonzalez took her turn in the limelight in the final quarter when she connected on seven of eight free throws to score nine of her 15 points in the fourth period. The Wildcats outscored Louisburg 18-11 in the period, getting the seven-point win.
Although Petty and Gonzalez played crucial roles in the win, Petty said that De Soto's second Louisburg championship in as many years was a team effort.
The shooting guard was especially pleased with the efforts of bench players Lauren Hampton and Kayla Bader.
"Our bench really stepped it up tonight," she said. "It means a lot when you have a bench like ours. You don't have to worry when they come in. We have such faith in each other. We work well together."
Hampton made her mark by playing solid defense. But the junior also scored all three of her points in the second quarter during a crucial run that stopped a 7-2 Louisburg spurt to begin the second period.
With her team trailing 22-15 with four minutes left before halftime, Hampton hit the first of two free throws and a short banker to carry the Wildcats on a 6-2 run that cut the deficit to 24-21 with two minutes left before intermission. De Soto then kept the score close and trailed 28-25 at the break.
Bader scored five points and grabbed two rebounds during her stints in the contest. Her play of the game came in the fourth period when she blew by a Louisburg player on her way to a layup with De Soto clinging to a one-point lead with just more than two minutes left.
The Wildcats then connected on seven of eight free throws in the final 44 seconds, sealing the win.
De Soto jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead at the game's start. But a 13-6 Louisburg run allowed the hosts to take a slim 15-13 advantage after eight minutes of action.
Louisburg took its first lead of the game with 2:16 left in the first frame when Lauren Westhoff hit a 3-pointer, putting the home team up 10-9.
Louisburg didn't relinquish the lead for the next 20-plus minutes. They surged out to a 40-31 lead about halfway through the third quarter before Petty began to assert herself.
Jackie Goleman and Clarissa Kopp gave De Soto a definite inside presence by scoring seven and six points, respectively, and pulling down 13 rebounds between them.
Jessica Blankenship and Becca Davis each scored two points.
Kelsey Bowden and Lindsey Tuter led Louisburg with 16 and 12 points. Their team was led by seven rebounds each from Bowden and Juree Hampton, who also added six points to the cause.
De Soto punched its ticket to the championship game by knocking off Independence 43-24 in the second round of the tournament.
The Wildcats opened up the semifinal matchup by outscoring Independence 15-4 in the second period, taking a 21-8 halftime lead.
Both teams scored 11 points in the third period before De Soto -- now in the midst of a seven-game winning streak -- stretched the difference to 19 points by outscoring the Bulldogs 11-5.
Petty, who led all scorers in the tournament with 55 points, and Kopp led the Wildcats with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Goleman and Gonzalez added six points each.