CAPE GIRARDEAU – The Farmington Knightettes led by a good margin nearly all the way in their district opener with Poplar Bluff on Monday, but with 5:20 in the fourth quarter the Lady Mules closed to within one point, and the game became a race to the final buzzer with the Knightettes winning out 57-52 for their 20th win of the year.
The Lady Mules scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to make it a 40-39 Farmington lead, the closest they had come to the Knightettes since a 2-2 start. Farmington’s coach Steve McFarland called time to settle his team down and get them back to what they had been doing best.
The Knightettes, 20-6, nearly saw the Lady Mules take the lead when Poplar Bluff made a steal of the ball after the time-out, but their try at a three-pointer rimmed out and the Knightettes made good on Coach McFarland’s advice.
Kristen Hayes fed the ball over the top to Sydney Winslow in the key and Winslow made the turn and the basket, giving the Knightettes a three-point cushion which they would milk for the rest of the game by matching Poplar Bluff basket for basket down the stretch.
The play was one the Knightettes had worked to perfection for most of the game with Winslow scoring 22 of her game-high 24 points from the post position.
Poplar Bluff was forced to send the Knightettes to the line late in the game, and the Lady Mules had several opportunities to catch up. Farmington shot only 50 percent from the line, leaving the score only a two or three point difference, but their defense kept the Lady Mules from getting the tying basket each time.
When Winslow sank both of her free throws on a trip to the line, it sealed off any chance of a win by the Lady Mules as time was running out.
The Knightettes exploded to the lead in the first quarter, working the hi-lo game with Winslow for six points and Briley Milfeld and Kristen Hayes made the Lady Mules’ defense pay for trying to close in on Winslow, each with a three-pointer from outside.
Kristen Ploetze took over Poplar Bluff’s scoring in the second quarter, making 10 of their 12 points, but Farmington’s Erin Parks kept her team well out in front with three baskets from short range.
&#8220Parks stepped up big for us offensively,” said Coach McFarland of his senior’s play. &#8220Our sophomore (Holly Russell) and our freshman (Taylor Jensen) came off the bench and really played great for us, too.”
The Knightettes had trouble handling the ball in the game and collected several turnovers, 27 in all, which kept the Lady Mules always within range of a comeback, to the dislike of their coach.
&#8220We made a bunch of silly turnovers early in the game, but we took care of the ball when we needed too,” said McFarland of his team’s finishing the game with better ballhandling.
Stefanie Ferguson got hot from the perimeter with two threes in the third quarter for Poplar Bluff, but again it was Parks who came up with the equalizer with six more points to keep the Knightettes lead at seven going into Poplar Bluff’s fourth-quarter comeback attempt.
Milfeld and Winslow kept the Knightettes from being caught by the Lady Mules, scoring 15 of Farmington’s 17 fourth-quarter points.
Farmington will face Jackson, which had beaten Cape Central earlier 59-29, on Thursday at 6 p.m. It will mark the third time the two teams have met with Jackson taking both of the first two. Thursday’s game will be the only one that really matters with one team ending their season and one advancing on to the state play-offs.
Farmington 12 14 14 17 – 57
Poplar Bluff 6 12 15 19 – 52
Farmington – Winslow 24, Parks 13, Milfeld 10, Hayes 4, Sago 2, Russell 2, Littrell 2.
Poplar Bluff – Ploetze 22, Pratt 7, Ferguson 7, Stonecipher 6, Fister 6, Whelan 2, Sumrall 2.
3-Pointers: Ferguson 2, Hayes, Milfeld, Ploetze.