The Archie Whirlwinds (10-2) and Drexel Lady Bobcats (9-2) have been on a collision course since early in the season.
Both teams were tied at the top of the WEMO conference standings. The Lady Bobcats entered the game with a seven game winning streak, while the Whirlwinds had won their last four games. Drexel was ranked No. 9 in Missouri Class 1A; Archie No. 7 in Class 2A. When they met Jan. 21, something had to give.
“I told the team that if we want to be conference champions, we have to go through Archie,” said Bobcat head coach Dennis Bolton.
And it did, as Drexel came out on top, 35-29.
The energized Bobcats got out of the gate early and ran out to a 7-2 first quarter lead. Though they were initially stunned, the Whirlwinds regained their composure and, out scored Drexel 13-5 during the remainder of the first half. They headed into the locker room with a one-point lead.
For two teams that combine for 99 points a game, everyone was expecting a close game, the 13-12 score was a surprise.
“I was thinking on the sidelines that our defense was very good, and that we were holding a very good team to very few points,” Bolton said after halftime.
So, if plan A for the Bobcats wasn’t working, maybe it was time to go to plan B – play smothering defense and keep the ball away from Archie’s Taylor Plattner and their potent offense.
“We talked in the locker room at half time about mental toughness and staying strong,” Drexel senior Addison Barnhart said after the game.
The Drexel half time adjustment didn’t happen right away. Archie opened the third quarter with six unanswered points and it appeared that the Whirlwinds would continue their dominance over the Bobcats. Actually, the Whirlwinds increased their lead by three points during the quarter.
In the final eight minutes the Bobcats’ Lauryn Campbell came alive. She led the her team with eight points in the fourth quarter, six of which were earned at the free-throw line. With four minutes left to play, Drexel led Archie 30-27. It was the Bobcats first lead since 2:35 left in the second quarter.
The three-point lead created just enough distance for Bolton to make one final adjustment to Drexel’s game plan. After a time out with 5:36 left in the game he directed the Bobcat offense to control the ball and run the clock. The Bobcats’ held the ball for the next five minutes and fourteen seconds Archie would not score again until there were twelve seconds left in the game.
“We let them run with the four corners offense because we were only one possession down. Then we had some turnovers ran up five quick points, and we lost our opportunity,” Archie coach Troy Shulte said.
Are these two schools now considered rivals? The intensity of the crowd during those final minutes seemed to indicate so.
“You have to beat someone a couple times before anyone considers another school to be a rival,” Barnhart said.