FREDERICKTOWN – The Arcadia Valley girls basketball team was temporarily forced to adjust personnel after a harsh landing left senior standout Briar Johnson visibly shaken on Saturday night.
But the Lady Tigers were undeterred in their mission to snap a lengthy drought without a tournament title of any kind, and instead elevated their intensity level from that moment in the third quarter.
Arcadia Valley made 13 steals overall, and repeatedly attacked in transition down the stretch to upend Naylor 72-59 in the Fredericktown Tournament final.
The lone basket from senior reserve Miranda Stirts was arguably the most influential of the game. Her mid-range jumper sparked a clinching 10-0 spurt by the Lady Tigers (3-0).
Naylor was looking to complete a dazzling run at the event after being seeded fifth among six teams. It began with an upset victory over top seed Central on a buzzer beater.
A 3-pointer by Raylynn Alexander and cutting layup from Hannah Cunningham brought the Eagles (3-1) to within 54-49 before Stirts connected from the right side with 5:18 remaining.
Johnson flexed and iced her right hand for several minutes on the sideline before eventually returning, and still compiled 25 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
She drove the length of the court and drew contact on a successful scoop for a 3-point play, then added another basket from the post to restore a 64-49 separation.
Kinsey Phelps coaxed in a remarkable flip over her shoulder on a fast break, and AV teammate Jerrika Brockes made her only attempted shot of the contest in the closing stages.
Naylor collected its seventh team foul with 2:45 remaining in the third quarter, and AV junior Makayla Moise capitalized by converting 12-of-14 free throws on the night.
She earned a trip to the stripe by grabbing two offensive rebounds among much taller opposition, and Johnson pushed the margin to 42-28 with a subsequent 3-pointer.
The Lady Tigers’ most recent first-place result in a varsity tournament prior to Saturday occurred on Feb. 29, 2008 in a Class 3, District 3 championship win.
Only four players registered points for Naylor, but junior center Callee Pickrell poured in a game-high 29. Her third field goal gave the Eagles a 10-7 edge.
AV answered with consecutive triples by Josie Landrum and Johnson to mark the fifth lead change of the first quarter. Eight points from sophomore Jaesa Brockes helped create a 31-23 halftime spread.
Moise tallied 17 points and Landrum added 10 for Arcadia Valley, which will host North County for a marquee battle on Monday. Phelps dished out five assists and had eight points.
Cunningham scored 12 points before leaving abruptly with a shoulder injury, and Gracie Gargac posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds for Naylor.
Matt King is the sports editor for the Daily Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org