Walking off the floor with a couple tears falling down her face, Webb City’s Mikaela Burgess did not have the look of a player headed to the state finals.
But her play in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s Class 4 state semifinal against Smithville has the Cardinals headed there.
Burgess scored eight points in a crucial fourth-quarter stretch and disrupted Smithville’s last chance in the 54-53 win, sending the Cardinals to Saturday’s 4:50 p.m. final.
“In those last few seconds, they started to make that run and the emotions were just going through me,” Burgess said. “Just to hear that buzzer go off and to look up and see that we won, it just kind of hit me.
“I just wanted it so bad, and … I’m happy.”
The Cardinals (25-5) won’t be a popular pick to win Saturday’s final, as 30-0 and nationally ranked Incarnate Word looms.
“It’s basketball, and anything can happen,” Webb City coach Brad Shorter said. “That’s why we play the game. We’re not going to just give them the trophy. I think our kids have a really good shot.”
Webb City had to dig deep to get a chance at IWA.
The Cardinals controlled the first half, as post players Desirea Buerge and Casey Heger combined for 18 points before halftime. Burgess then closed the half with a 3-pointer to give Webb City a 33-26 lead at the break, tying its largest at that point.
Smithville (25-5) dominated the third quarter, though, closing with an 11-4 run and then taking its first lead after two baskets to open the fourth.
In a timeout, Shorter then drew up a play for Burgess to shoot a 3-pointer from the top of the key. She drilled it and then hit another 2 minutes later to close a run which put the Cardinals up 49-45 with 3:38 to play.
The junior guard scored a game-high 23 points, including four 3-pointers.
Both teams struggled from the line late, but Kaitlin Beason made two big defensive plays late and then made two free throws with 18.1 seconds left to go up 54-50. Those proved to be the game-winning points.
Smithville’s Madison Nelson made a traditional three-point play with 13.0 seconds left and the Warriors then forced a turnover to set up a play for the win.
After Burgess knocked the ball loose, a desperate Smithville attempt fell short, ending the game much like the Republic boys did earlier to make the Class 4 boys final.
And just like the Tigers, Webb City is now one win away.