STANBERRY, Mo. — Malia Collins was not having a very good night in the semifinals of the Stanberry Invitational on Thursday night against North Andrew.
The Jefferson sophomore was held scoreless through the first three quarters of the game and rolled her ankle on the final play of the third quarter. The Cardinals held a 30-22 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“I think everyone was frustrated including myself,” Jefferson coach Tyler Pedersen said on the severe foul trouble the Eagles were in. “At halftime, we talked about just focusing on what we can control.”
With Collins out of the game, Jefferson senior Vanessa Pappert knew that her team needed someone to step up and they needed it now.
“I just knew that I needed to step up then past off to someone else,” Pappert said. “I needed to get myself open or get someone else open to score. We had to score. We needed scores.”
Pappert opened the quarter with a three then had a breakaway, but had her shot blocked. That didn’t deter the Eagle senior who came back with another three then after the Cardinals answered with a bucket, she hit her third three of the fourth quarter to cut the margin to 32-31.
“That shows the heart that Vanessa has,” Pedersen said. “She kind of put us on her back there for a little while.”
On the next trip down, Pappert grabbed a steal and tipped it ahead to freshman Stephanie Turpin, who spun off a defender and made the go-ahead layup.
It was around that point when Collins got back into the gym after Jefferson boys coach Tim Jermain had taken her to retape her ankle.
“I was ready to go when we were down ten, so coming out of that stairwell, that was even more exciting,” Collins said.
The Eagles added to the lead with freshman Jaclyn Pappert finding senior Ashley Mattson for a layup, then the Eagles spread the court and allowed the clock to run. Pedersen reinserted Collins into the game to take care of the ball.
With 45 seconds left, the Cardinals fouled Collins to send her to the line for a one-and-one. The sophomore missed the front-end and North Andrew had the chance to tie it.
Cardinal senior Jentry Copple made good on that opportunity with a three from the corner with 25 seconds left.
Pedersen took a timeout with 14 seconds left to draw up a play. The Eagles came out and that play broke down as the Cardinals did a good job fighting through screens.
That is when the ball found the hands of Collins with five seconds left and she had to find a way to create on her own. Collins took the ball down the right side of the lane and lofted a floater just before the buzzer sounded.
“We came out of the timeout and obviously it did break down a little bit, bit I feel like that is just the game of basketball,” Collins said. “You just have to be able to recover, make plays when the time is running down and we were able to do that tonight.”
No one heard the buzzer though, because the Jefferson crowd erupted as Collins’ shot dropped through the net and sent the Eagles to Saturday’s championship game with a 37-35 victory.
“Malia just made a play,” Pedersen said. “There is nothing we did there. She realized the play broke down and she did the right thing. She went to the basket and got a win. … Malia has got a lot of heart.”
Vanessa Pappert finished as the Eagles’ leading scorer with 17 points while Jaclyn Pappert had nine and Mattson had six. Turpin and Collins had two points each, but each basket was a go-ahead shot in the fourth quarter.
“You know what, I had only two points that game, but if those are the two points I had, it is fine,” Collins said.
Copple had a team-high 14 points for the Cardinals while Malayna Briner had seven and Emily Cole had six.
The Eagles will play top-seeded Stanberry in the championship game on Saturday while North Andrew will play fourth-seeded Worth County for third on Friday.