Mistakes that would have gotten the Bolivar girls on the baseline for sprints in a November practice were the undoing of their March run.
The Lady Liberators were beaten down the floor on fast breaks and then outworked for offensive rebounds as the Sullivan Lady Eagles pulled away in a 51-41 Class 4 sectional victory Wednesday at Missouri S&T.
“That was just lack of focus on our part,” Bolivar coach Darin Archer said. “That’s something we did not let happen a whole lot this year. But things become a little bit different when you get on this stage, and it hurt us.”
The errors were most common in the third quarter as Sullivan extended its lead from three points at the halftime break to a 37-27 cushion heading into the fourth.
The quarter featured four Sullivan layups in a three-minute span where Lady Eagles sprinted past Bolivar defenders in transition for easy scores.
Also, twice in the third and again in the fourth, Bolivar surrendered offensive rebounds off of missed free throws, resulting in more Sullivan points.
“It’s just boxing out and rebounding,” Bolivar senior Sammy Jacobson said. “We should’ve had some of those.”
Sullivan (24-4) will play Webb City at 2:45 p.m. Saturday at Drury University’s O’Reilly Family Event Center, with a Class 4 state berth on the line.
The Lady Eagles had a leg up on the free-throw rebounding, in part because they knew misses could be coming, Sullivan coach Jason Merkel said.
“We’re in free-throw funk right now, and we’ve been emphasizing just crashing the boards a little better,” he said. “It paid dividends tonight.”
Sullivan was 9 for 21 (43 percent) from the line, and were led by Taylor Lucas, who had a game-high 22 points.
Bolivar, which was led by sophomore Randi Hancock’s 15 points, graduates just two seniors, Jacobson and Peyton Peavey.
“I hate that we couldn’t let this thing last a little longer for Sammy and Peyton but at the same time, we have a very good young group that’s coming up,” Archer said.
“They’ve got the taste in their mouths, and they know what it takes to get here. Hopefully that’s something we can build from this summer, and if we get back to this point next year, we won’t have the wide eyes like we did tonight.”
Added Jacobson: “I’m really proud of our team, we’re a great team from top to bottom. But they’re going to be just as strong next year, if not stronger.”