The only other Benton girls basketball team to capture a state championship besides the 2006-07 Cardinals was the 2015-16 Cardinals who went 32-0 and won the Class 4 state championship in double overtime.
It was nearly 16 years ago that the 2007 Benton Cardinals girls basketball team hoisted a state championship plaque, and their biggest celebration for that accomplishment could be in April.
The team that went 30-0 and won a state championship will be inducted as part of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame’s Kansas City Enshrinement on Apr. 23. While the feeling of winning the state title was a moment of seeing their hard work pay off. Former Cardinal senior Alicia Bell felt the moment came and went, but to reunite with her former teammates, she’s feels it could be greater than the day they left the court victorious.
“You have that one second to be proud and then it’s kind of over, so I think it’s just a fulfilling feeling to know okay now we can really bask in it, be really proud of it, reflect on it. This is the fruits of our labor, and I’m happy to be doing that with this specific group of girls,” Bell said.
The “Southside mentality” is something all Benton athletes have instilled into themselves and this 2007 team was no exception. Former senior Melissa Eliis (McIntosh) said that even the girls who came off the bench or those who didn’t get a lot of minutes went through everything in practice that the starters went through. Each player toughed out every practice and Bell felt that’s what helped separate their team from the competition.
“I just think sometimes we were lucky because we just got to play in that type of environment to where it was like super competitive, super ‘pull out the best in you,’” Bell said.
If anyone asked former player Jenni O’Meara (Musser) what she thought of the hall of fame team, she’ll tell them they were the most intense group of girls: the most tough, tenacious, get-after-it, get-out-of-my-way type of team was who they were. And the 07’ Cardinals didn’t have a violent history, but if there was no ball on the court, O’Meara knew they had each other’s backs.
“If games came down to not basketball and fist fights, my money is on our team all day long,” O’Meara said.
Since their 2007 state championship, only one other Benton girls team has ever captured a state title for the program. Currently, the 2022-23 Benton girls team will be competing down in Springfield, Missouri in the Class 4 state semifinals for the third consecutive season.
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