South Putnam rides Capps’ repeat game-winner to nip Western Boone
CLAYTON — Friday was Groundhog’s Day! South Putnam girls basketball fans can relate to the Bill Murray movie with the same name that has a day repeating over and over again.
Caitlin Capps hit a game-winning shot last year to propel the Eagles to a Sectional championship, she hit another game-winner, this time in the semi-final game to defeat the Western Boone Stars 54-53. South will play Cascade for the Class 2A Sectional 44 championship tonight.
The Eagles will be trying for their second consecutive sectional title after winning a game that saw a little bit of everything. The Eagles overcame a poor shooting night by playing tough defense, winning the battle of the boards and taking care of the basketball.
“This was a great team win. We really fought hard and had to overcome a lot. We didn’t shoot it very well and we had some foul trouble, but the girls really played tough,” South Putnam head coach Brian Gardner said.
The fourth quarter saw eight lead changes, as neither team led by more than five points in the quarter. Capps hit her game-winner with :03 left to play as she corralled a missed Eagle field goal attempt and laid it back in to boost the Eagles’ record to 18-5 and give them a chance to defend their title. The Eagles had to battle from behind most of the last three and half minutes of the game.
“Our girls did not quit. That comes from senior leadership, Ally (Nichols), Miranda (Bieghler), Lillie (Stein) and even Maddie McHugh on the bench. They have been there before and battled back. I thought we did a really good job of getting stops and being able to get buckets after that,” Gardner said.
The first half was an offensive struggle. The two teams combined to hit just 8-of-52 shots from the floor. That is not a typo, as both teams struggled to score as the defenses took both teams out of their offensive rhythm. Western Boone pushed the pace with their pressure defense and forced the Eagles to rush their shots. South only hit 3-of-25 shots in the half, but wouldn’t let the Stars pull ahead by much as they used their physicality to limit Western Boone as well. The Stars were able to gain a 18-13 halftime lead as they held the Eagle shooters in check. Capps carried the Eagle offense in the first half as well. The junior post player scored 10 of her team-high 21 points in the half as the Stars had no answer for her post game.
“Caitlin was a force for us tonight. When we got the ball inside to her, she did some nice things,” Gardner said.
The small lead was a testament to the Eagle defense. They were able to keep Western Boone’s leading scorer, Madison Jones in check early. The junior guard led all scorers with 24 points, but the Eagles held her to eight in the first half and forced her to pick up 14 of her 24 points from the free throw line.
“She (Jones) is averaging 23 points a game for reason. She is one of the best players around. We talked that we wanted to be physical and not let their other players get in double figures, we did allow one with 10 (Kara Brewer). We did a great job of being physical and not allowing their other players to get comfortable,” Gardner said.
The second half was a completely different ballgame as the two teams started solving their opponent’s defense. After combining to score just 31 points in the first half, the teams put 34 points on the board in the third quarter. The Eagles methodically began closing the gap on the Stars. The Eagles took the lead midway through the quarter at 26-25 on a Stein 3-pointer. South had an 8-0 run to get a 31-25 lead late in the third quarter. Stein and Lexi Vanihel led the Eagles with seven points apiece in the period. Western Boone went on their own run of 7-2 to close the quarter and trail the Eagles 33-32 heading into a wild fourth quarter.
After trading buckets for the first couple of minutes, jumped up 42-37, but the Stars had a run of their own to combat the Eagles. Western Boone then went on a 12-2 run of their own to take what looked like a commanding 49-44 lead with just 2:45 left to play, but the Eagles had some magic left.
“This was a game of runs. We were able to get it done when we needed to. We got a lot of good performances, Caitlin scoring, Lulu (Vanihel) on the boards, Ally came off the bench and defended well,” Gardner said.
South began crawling back into the game. Stein hit a layup, Capps hit two jumpers sandwiched around two Bieghler free throws and the Eagles led 52-51 with just :32 left to play — forcing the Stars to call a timeout. Western Boone was able to get to the free throw line with 16 seconds to play. The Stars were not able to convert the shots, but Lauryn Florey got the offensive rebound and put Western Boone back ahead 53-52 on a putback with just :14 seconds left. Bieghler was able to get a good look at a jumper, but it was off the mark and Capps was able to get the rebound and convert the game-winner.
It was not a surprise that South’s winning shot came off of an offensive rebound. The Eagles outrebounded Western Boone 45-36 on the night, with Vanihel pulling down 15 of those rebounds and Capps having 10. During one stretch of the second half, it seemed that every missed Eagle shot was being put back in by Vanihel. The sophomore scored all nine of her points on offensive rebounds.
“We knew we had to win the rebounding battle. Vanihel had a great night rebounding the basketball. Capps did as well and even Chloe Custis off the bench,” Gardner said.
Western Boone was led in scoring by Jones’ 24 with Brewer adding 10 as the Stars ended their season at 11-13. Capps led the Eagles with 21 and Stein had 14.
South will now face Cascade in the championship game. The two teams have already played twice this year with the Cadets winning 55-52 in December and the Eagles picking up a 49-41 victory just two weeks ago.
“We are going to be ready for them, they are going to be ready for us. We will have to have a great night, but it is going to be a battle. I am excited for them to get a chance at another sectional title, it is great opportunity,” Gardner said.
SOUTH PUTNAM (54) – Bieghler 2-8 3-5 8, Bratcher 1-1 0-0 2, Vanihel 4-11 1-2 9, Capps 7-14 7-7 21, Stein 5-21 2-7 14, Custis 0-5 0-0 0, Nichols 0-0 0-0 0. Hill 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-61 FG, 13-21 FT, 54 TP.
WESTERN BOONE (53) – Jones 5-19 14-14 24, Florey 3-5 2-4 8, Brewer 3-8 1-2 10, Reed 2-9 4-8 8, Klingensmith 0-1 0-0 0, Raby 1-4 1-2 3, Randolph 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-47 FG, 22-30 FT, 53 TP.
South Putnam 8 5 20 21 — 54
Western Boone 9 9 14 21 — 53
3-Point Shooting — SP 3-20 (Stein 2-11, Bieghler 1-5, Vanihel 0-1, Custis 0-3), WB 3-11 (Brewer 3-3, Reed 0-2, Jones 0-6). Rebounds – SP 45 (Bieghler 2, Vanihel 15, Capps 10, Stein 7, Custis 2, Nichols 1, Hill 2) WB – 36 (Jones 6, Florey 9, Brewer 5, Reed 1, Klingensmith 1, Raby 7, Randolph 1) FG Pct. – SP 31.1, WB 29.8. FT Pct. – SP 61.9, WB 73.3. Turnovers – WB 17, SP 12.