HUGHESVILLE — After losing to Otterville five times last season, the Bunceton Lady Dragons have beaten Otterville four times this season, the fourth a 48-35 win on Friday at Northwest to clinch the Class 1, District 8 championship.
“It feels pretty great,” said Bunceton’s Rachel Emde. “We haven’t gotten one in a long time.”
Emde scored 23 points, including 14 in the first half, to help Bunceton build a 29-9 lead late in the second quarter.
“We definitely came out ready to play,” said Bunceton center Sam Brandes.
Bunceton got many of those points early in the transition game, helped by seven Otterville turnovers in the first half.
“It’s important for a good team to control the tempo of the game,” Brandes said.
Bunceton held Otterville scoreless until a Paige Fry backdoor cut with 4:21 left in the first quarter. Otterville hit 5 of 25 from the field in the first half as Bunceton prevented the Lady Eagles from getting open looks.
“We talked about it all year — offense is easy, defense is what wins it all,” said Bunceton coach Mike Arnold. “The last couple games before, we didn’t guard them well and I kind of chewed them out. This game we came out with intensity. They played to win instead of not to lose.”
Hannah Stone finished with 24 points for Otterville, with 10 of those coming in the fourth quarter, while Bunceton was maintaining a double-digit lead. In the first quarter, she was held to two points and by the time she hit a free throw for her third point, the Lady Dragons were ahead 24-7.
“They come out in a man and put one person on her, then double down,” said Otterville coach Bob Hardy. “When we can’t get it to her right away, we panic and then throw it away.”
Bunceton got off to an 8-0 lead. After an early jumper from Madeline Berwanger, Emde hit a basket in the paint and got a putback and Brandes followed that with a jumper.
“(We were) running our plays and being patient with the ball, not forcing it in,” Emde said.
Bunceton went ahead 11-2 on a 3-pointer by Emde and finished the quarter with a Brandes layup off a steal and assist by Julia Kahle.
The lead grew to 20 when Emde hit another 3-pointer to make it 29-9, but Otterville ended the half with a basket by Stone to make it 29-11.
Stone began scoring more in the second half, but Bunceton was able to match her shot for shot, never letting Otterville make much of a run. A Stone basket inside was answered by a 3-pointer from Emde. After Stone hit a 3-pointer to beat the third quarter buzzer and a basket in the paint to open the fourth quarter, cutting the Lady Dragon lead to 38-24, Emde again answered with a 3-pointer.
“She can step up and hit the 3-pointer at any time,” Arnold said. “Not many bigs can do that and post up.”
Bunceton (24-2) will play a sectional game at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at Harrisonville. The Lady Dragons will face the winner of Saturday’s District 7 championship game between Drexel and Montrose.
“When districts started, I put on the board ‘0-0,’ ” Arnold said. “We were 2-0 when we came in.”
Otterville, which won a district title last year, finished the season at 19-8.
CLASS 1 SECTIONAL: Bunceton vs. District 7 champ
7:15 p.m. Tuesday at Harrisonville