COLUMBIA – They embodied perfection.
The targets on their backs just got bigger. Strafford capped a perfect 33-0 season by winning the Missouri Class 3 girls basketball state championship, beating Whitfield 80-39 Saturday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia. Strafford players wore bull’s-eyes on the backs of their warmup tops all season after winning their first state championship in 2016.
According to Steve Frank, no one embraced the targets more than Strafford’s lone senior, point guard Abby Oliver.
“Abby made a statement in a preseason interview that we were better this year than we were last year, and that was kind of bold,” Frank said.
Oliver scored 22 points in her final high school game. She is committed to play at College of the Ozarks.
“It’s very special to be able to coach somebody not just with the caliber of athleticism (Oliver) has, but just to have the heart and the love and be the person she is, that’s what makes her so special,” Frank said. “She’s irreplaceable.”
Oliver made six 3-pointers to set a Missouri girls basketball high school record of 151 made 3-pointers in a single season. She passed the previous mark of 149 by Chadwick’s Maddie Hursh with a stepback 3-pointer from the left wing in the second quarter.
“I think it’s really special, definitely being in the state championship game. Going into the game, I wasn’t really thinking about even breaking it. I just played my game,” Oliver said.
Sophomore Hayley Frank led all scorers with 25 points and was happy to fulfill the dream of an undefeated state championship season.
“This has been a really long year, I mean so many hours have went into this. It’s so special. Abby is our only senior. How much better can it get for her to end her career?” Hayley Frank said. “I love my team, and they made this so special. It’s unreal.”
The crowd included University of Missouri women’s basketball coach Robin Pingeton seated courtside to watch Hayley Frank score 25 points and pull down 14 rebounds.
“I saw her there, but I just go out and play,” Hayley Frank said.
Coach Steve Frank joked throughout the season that he would be able to be nice to his players again when the year was over. That includes his twin daughters, Hayley and Kayley. Hayley Frank looked forward to her dad being nice to the players during a postgame meal.
“We’re going to go eat some steaks,” Hayley Frank said.
Junior Zoey Mullings continued her run of destruction with 16 points. Mullings averaged 8.9 points per game in the regular season but put up 23 in the semifinal and 16 in the final.
“Once we hit the districts and playoffs, (Mullings) played consistent all the way through,” Steve Frank said. “Hayley and Abby have gotten a lot of the press and a lot of the credit this year, but man, they’ll be the first ones to tell you that that wouldn’t come without the rest of their teammates.”
Strafford becomes the first Missouri girls basketball team to ever win 33 games in a single season. Strafford’s present winning streak extends to 49 games.
Whitfield coach Michael Slater noted Strafford’s shooting percentage of 54.2 for the game, and 54.2 in 3-pointers.
“Give credit to Strafford, they shot that thing,” Slater said. “They really, really shot the basketball and we knew they were good shooters. From that second quarter on, we just didn’t feel like they missed too many.”
Sophomore Aijha Blackwell led Whitfield in scoring with 10 points. She picked up her third foul in the sixth minute of the game and sat out the rest of the first half. Blackwell admitted the big game atmosphere got to Whitfield (25-8), which had never played for a championship.
“The atmosphere—it was really different,” Blackwell said. “I think I could get used to it now that we have experienced this.”
High school girls basketball Missouri Class 3 state championship
Strafford 80, Whitfield 39
At Mizzou Arena, Columbia
Strafford—Hayley Frank 25, Abby Oliver 22, Zoey Mullings 16, Mica Chadwell 5, Kayley Frank 4, Kyndall Compton 3, Taylor Treat 3, Logan Jones 2
Whitfield—Aijha Blackwell 10, Jade Moore 8, Zaria Daniels 6, Catalina Cuevas 4, Nia Griffin 4, Ariel Jennings 4, Jessica Scales 3.