Nevada Daily Mail
"I'm proud of the kids. What a tremendous effort!" Even in defeat, Nevada Lady Tigers head coach Brent Bartlett had a lot to be happy about as he left Wynn Gymnasium Monday night.
Bartlett's Lady Tigers squad could have simply accepted defeat as a given when the Lady Tigers of Skyline pulled into Nevada High School, but just the opposite happened as Bartlett's squad gave Skyline all it could handle in a 57-56 overtime decision that came down to the last shot in the closing seconds before it was really over.
"We gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game at the end and it just didn't happen," Bartlett said.
That opportunity came in the form of Nevada Lady Tigers leading scorer Tori Dahmer. With 3.7 seconds left in the overtime session, Dahmer found herself the target of an inbounds play under the bucket and put up a last-second layup that sailed over the bucket as the final buzzer sounded, sealing the victory for Skyline.
That shot brought back a strong, bitter memory for Lady Tiger fans throughout the gym as it was the second game Nevada has played that came down to the final shot. The first of those games was in the third-place matchup of the Carl Junction tournament when Katie Skaggs had the same opportunity and converted, giving the Lady Bulldogs a 46-45 victory.
The Lady Tigers took the floor following a timeout with the chance to pull off an equally improbable upset Monday night, but luck was on Skyline's side this time and the shot fell harmlessly to the floor. Despite that misfortune, however, Bartlett got the ball right where he wanted it at the game's end.
"We want the ball in her hands. You know, she does so much, I'm so proud of her," Bartlett said of the 5-foot-10-inch senior Dahmer. "It's been a joy; she's been a big success, a big reason why we've been successful the last, you know, three and four years and I'm proud to be her coach."
Dahmer finished the night giving Bartlett a lot to smile about as she led the Lady Tigers' offense with 22 points. Morgan McNeley wasn't far behind as she joined Dahmer in double figures with 14 in what was a valiant, though not quite effective enough effort.
"We just did a lot of good things and I told them to leave the locker room with their heads held high," Bartlett said.
Though no coach really wants the stress that comes with such a wire-to-wire nail-biter as fans were treated to Monday night, Bartlett said it wasn't something for which he and his squad were unprepared.
"Over Christmas, we've been working on a lot of different situations, you know, end of game situations," he said. "That's the reason we did it, for games like this."
The Lady Tigers came into the contest hoping to get back on the winning track after Friday night, when they took to the road to face longtime rival, Webb City. In that contest, the Lady Cardinals led right from the start on their way to a 52-39 victory.
The Lady Tigers' effort to erase the bad memories from that contest got off to a strong start as they were able to match the quick pace for which Skyline has always been known, taking an 11-all tie into the second quarter. Things stayed close from there and the Lady Tigers found themselves headed into the locker room with a 21-20 lead.
The second half was just as fast-paced as the first, but head coach Kevin Cheek's Lady Tigers were able to take advantage of the one thing that has plagued the Lady Tigers all season long -- missed shots -- down the stretch. Though Skyline didn't shoot well from the field itself, Cheek's squad did enough to outscore Nevada, 37-35 in the second half and overtime, ultimately taking the victory by a final score of 57-56.
"I saw a lot of good things and again, I saw some things we can keep improving," Bartlett said. "When you play state caliber teams, it's going to make you better. You know, you always hate to lose like what happened tonight.
"I know last year, we went 0-7 after Christmas playing against state caliber teams. It was no fun, but it sure made us better down the stretch and this teams going to keep improving, too."
As a team, the Lady Tigers finished the night shooting just 36.1 percent from the field, but it wasn't because the shot selection was poor. As has been an issue on a number of occasions, the Lady Tigers got a number of good looks at the basket, but the shots simply wouldn't fall.
"We missed some inside shots, but again, you're getting pushed and shoved," Bartlett said. "It looks simpler than what it is."
Ashley Bishop led Skyline with 15 points, followed by Krista Gideon with 14 and Madisen Brethower with 10. As a team, Cheek's Lady Tigers shot just under 45 percent for the game, hitting 17 of 38 field-goal attempts.
With the loss, the Lady Tigers fell to 7-6 on the year and are scheduled to continue a tough week of action on Thursday, when they head back out on the road to take on the Lady Eagles of Joplin High School.
"We've got a busy week this week," Bartlett said. "We'll have to be ready to play, that's for sure."