By Clint Andersen
The Gordon-Rushville Lady Mustangs travelled to Hemingford on Thursday night for their first game of the Western Trails Conference tournament. In a back-and-forth game, the Mustangs held on for a 43-40 win and advanced to the WTC semi-finals in Scottsbluff.
The Lady Mustangs started slowly Thursday night. Midway through the first quarter, the Mustangs trailed 10-2 before turning the momentum around and fighting back to 12-10 with :15 left in the quarter. The key to the turnaround was success at the defensive end of the floor.
As the Mustangs picked up their defensive intensity, they began to have success on the offensive end as well. The Mustangs used hard-nosed, aggressive defense to harass the Bobcats throughout the rest of the game while Dani Campbell and Sara Marlatt blocked a multitude of shots to make it very difficult for the Bobcats to score in the paint. The aggressive style of defense resulted in lots of fouls by the Mustangs, but Hemingford failed to capitalize at the line, converting just 11 of 27 free throws on the night.
In the second quarter, the Bobcats again pulled away and eventually expanded their lead to nine at 21-12. The Mustangs chipped away and cut the lead to three points with a minute left before the Bobcats scored to make the halftime score 23-18.
The second half was a nail-biter from start to finish with six ties and twelve lead changes. The Mustangs came out of the halftime break on a mission and quickly erased the five point halftime deficit, taking their first lead of the game with 5:06 left in the third quarter. Defensively, the Mustangs held the Bobcats scoreless for four and a half minutes and didn’t allow a Bobcat field goal until the 2:56 mark of the third quarter.
The remainder of the game was hard-fought, back-and-forth action as neither team could gain a clear advantage. In the fourth quarter alone, the score was tied three times and the lead changed hands eight times. Free throws proved decisive in the fourth quarter. The Mustangs were four of six from the line in the first three quarters, but started the fourth quarter by missing their first four. Hemingford missed their first three free throws before making their next five.
The game was decided in the last 34 seconds when Hemingford went to the free throw line to shoot two free throws, trailing by one point, 41-40. Both free throws were no good and when Sara Marlatt gathered up the defensive rebound, she was fouled. With 30 seconds left, Sara rattled the first one home before finding nothing but the bottom of the net with the second to give the Mustangs a three point lead, 43-40. After a Hemingford time-out, the Bobcats failed to get a good look at the basket and a Mustang rebound sealed the game.
The Mustangs’ leading scorer was Sara Marlatt with 13 points. Brandi Roth added 8, Hali Sahr, 7, Morgan Sones, 6, Cali Mulcahy, 5, and Ashton Sasse had 4. The Mustangs finished the night 6 of 12 on free throws, while Hemingford was just 11 of 27.
The Mustangs will travel to Bridgeport on Friday afternoon, then host Morrill on Saturday at 1 p.m.