Wednesday night at Mexico High School’s Gary Filbert Court, there were shouts of joy and moans of grief as the Sturgeon Lady Bulldogs showed fans and foes alike what girls Class 2 basketball was all about. In the end though they lost their lead and came up six points short, losing 46-40 to the Cairo Lady Bearcats.
It was a tough game for both teams.
Cairo scored first with a three pointer, something about which wise fans had been concerned. “If they can get their threes going it is going to be tough for the girls,” said one fan who had worn the blue and white all the way to SHS’ last state championship.
The Lady Bulldogs fought back, with Lauren Mills scoring a long-distance layup moments later.
Cairo played aggressive defense the whole game and that cost them at the free-throw line. Mills, Emma Bright and Kaylee Cranmer kept Sturgeon in Cairo’s face on the scoreboard and the first quarter ended 10-9 Cairo.
In the second quarter Camyron Orf broke out her three-point shot to help Sturgeon grab a 13-12 lead. The teams scrapped over the one-point margin, until the quarter’s last moments when Bright’s free-throws sent them into halftime with a 21-17 lead.
“We were worried about her athleticism,” Cairo Head Coach Brian Winkler said afterward, “from the top of the key to inside the paint, she is a threat.”
Bright and Orf finished the game with six points for Sturgeon. Mills led the team with 16 points and Cranmer backed her up with seven.
Mackenzie Dubbert let Cairo with a game-high 17 points.
Cairo came back in the third and Sturgeon fans got nervous. The teams traded the lead, first 25-23, Sturgeon; then 26-25 Cairo. But as the quarter closed Cranmer intercepted a Cairo pass and hurled it down-court to Bright who sky-hooked it in to tie the game at 29-29.
Nobody relaxed in the fourth quarter.
Bright layups and Mills free-throws put Sturgeon up 33-29 with
seven minutes left.
The Cairo scored a three, Mills hit back with a layup. The rest of the game Cairo shot three and Sturgeon jabbed back from the free-throw line.
It was not enough for the Blue and White and they finished six points down, but still the best season the team has seen in five years, ending with 20 wins and nine losses.
“We caught up with them and finally played great defense in the fourth,” Winkler said afterward. “That is what made the difference.”
He said their game plan against Sturgeon was to “Pressure the rim enough that they came in and that opened the perimeter for the three… They have one of the best 1-2-2 defenses in the state. That made it tough on us.”
Tough was a word Lady Bulldogs Head Coach John Kruse too, afterward.
“Cairo came out and played a really physical game against us,” he said. “They were tough, more physical than we were and we didn’t handle it well.”
That included he said, fatigue from the battles under the net. That fatigue – “Any time you play Cairo, they will pick up the pace and make it a fast game,” led to Sturgeon’s shot percentage going down. “Fatigue and turnovers, we were doing things we don’t normally do and we missed a lot of easy shots in the fourth.”
Still the season left Kruse with some fond memories he said.
“I am so proud of my seniors. I came to Sturgeon when they were freshmen and they worked and did the right things all the time these last four years. They are a special group and I will miss them.”