SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The East Buchanan basketball girls are state champions for the first time in school history.
The Bulldogs defeated the Tipton Cardinals 62-51 in the MSHSAA Class 2 State Championship on Saturday afternoon at JQH Arena to cap a historic season.
“We had a lot of doubters saying, ‘There’s no way. A state championship’s not going to happen. You guys had seven wins last season, it’s not going to happen,’” junior Lillian Schilling said. “But we knew deep down from the beginning — that was our goal over the summer.”
The crowds were limited for both teams due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, but the energy inside JQH Arena mirrored a championship game. Fans on both sides — Cardinal fans behind the bench, Bulldog fans on the opposite side of the arena — were on their feet throughout the game, urging their teams on to a state title.
Tipton started the scoring off after freshman Myra Claas snagged a steal and scored a layup on the fastbreak. The East Buchanan girls responded quickly, though, and kept the score even until Tipton slowly created a gap.
At the end of the first quarter, Tipton led 18-14.
The Cardinals started the second quarter with quick, back-to-back 3-pointers to jump out to an eight-point lead that had the Bulldogs chomping at the bit. From the 7:04 mark, they held Tipton scoreless for almost five minutes. In that time, East Buchanan was able to recapture the lead. A little bit of back and forth scoring kept it within one for more than two minutes before the Bulldogs started making shots.
The defense improved for East Buchanan in the second quarter, as well — the girls forced all five of Tipton’s first-half turnovers in the second period, giving them the opportunity to score six extra points.
Bulldog senior Addisyn Ishmael had six points in the final 2:20 of the second quarter to help her team take a one-point lead into the locker room at halftime. Of their 33 points, the Bulldogs had 30 in the paint and had only attempted one 3-pointer in the first 16 minutes.
“I’m a senior — this is my last game. I told myself, ‘My team deserves the best of me’ because they expect the best from me too,” Ishmael said.
Claas led all scorers at half with 21 points. Ishmael had 16 of her 21 before half, and freshman Gracie Kelsey scored 13 of her 26 for East Buchanan. Ishmael’s 8-for-10 shooting helped the Bulldogs to a 62.5% shooting percentage in the first half.
Both teams missed shots to start the third quarter, but the score remained close for the first half of the third quarter. The teams tied it for the eighth time in the game before East Buchanan started sinking shot after shot.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 10-point lead in the final four minutes to end the third quarter with a 50-40 lead.
East Buchanan continued its scoring hot streak into the fourth quarter, leading by as many as 14 with 4:32 left in the game. Tipton tried to make a comeback and fouled constantly in the final two minutes, but the damage had been done. The Bulldogs didn’t score from anywhere but the line for the final two minutes to win 62-51.
Kelsey ended her freshman year with a double-double, added 12 rebounds to the cause.
In their first ever trip to the Final Four, the East Buchanan girls became state champions.
“It settled in with about 20 seconds left to go just looking at our crowd and watching the time wind down and knowing that we just made history — I don’t have words. It was awesome,” Schilling said.
The Bulldogs end the season 29-3.