PEARCY — Most teams with zero seniors on the roster end their season long before the state tournament.
For the Alpena Lady Leopards, the state tournament was a proving ground for what they were capable of doing.
After claiming the conference, district and regional titles, the Lady Leopards began their state run with a come-from-behind win against Ouachita. Alpena then earned a 62-57 win over Rural Special in the quarterfinals before being matched against the top seed from 1A-4 in Kirby.
Size and speed came into perspective for Alpena against the Lady Trojans.
“There’s always a faster gun and we got pitted against a faster gun,” Lady Leopards head coach Larry McKinney commented on the matchup. “Kirby was fired up and played well. We didn’t play well but a lot of that had to do with Kirby’s execution.”
Alpena’s 67-33 loss to the Lady Trojans finished the Lady Leopard’s season with a 30-8 record after going 16-0 in conference.
The Lady Leopards faced a big hole early as the squad fell into a 18-6 deficit at the end of the first period. Katherine Rodas scored the first bucket followed by a field goal from both Desi Deitrich and then Emma Johnson.
Alex Hill got into the scoresheet with six points in the second frame and Deitrich sank a 3-pointer. Johnson hit a pair of free throws but Alpena was outscored by a 15-11 mark and faced a 33-17 disadvantage at halftime.
Deitrich hit her second trey of the game in the third period while Hill added another five points. Two scores in the post from Rodas finished the scoring in the third for Alpena.
“They had a good game plan against us and took some of our scorers out of the game,” McKinney reflected. “We had it down to 12 or 13 in the second half a couple of times, but then it turned from bad to worse.”
Alpena was held to four points in the final 8 minutes while Kirby collected 17 points to seal the win by a 67-33 margin.
Hill scored 11 points for Alpena. Deitrich added 10, Rodas six, Johnson four and Amelya Cook two.
“I’m not disappointed in the game, I’m disappointed in the score,” said the coach. “I’m disappointed for the kids. I wanted them to make that run to the final game.”
The veteran coach had plenty to brag on about his team.
“They are fun to watch because they play so hard,” McKinney mentioned. “They usually did what they had to do to win a ballgame. Those girls have a lot of heart and are good kids. They did a great job.”
Alpena 62, Rural Special 57
The Lady Leopards got behind at the end of the third period but battled back to take a 62-57 win to advance to the semifinals past Rural Special.
Alpena held a 26-22 lead at halftime but Rural Special exploded for 26 points in the third period while holding the Lady Leopards to 14 total points.
Hill tallied 10 points in the third frame to go with a field goal by both Rodas and Cook.
Alpena was down by a 48-40 score entering the fourth period.
Cook drained two 3-pointers in the fourth period while Hill tacked on seven points and three from Deitrich. Rodas scored in the paint and Annie Armer added a free throw as the Lady Leopards scored 22 points in the last period while holding Rural Special to nine points to take the win.
Both teams were tied at 12 at the first break and Rodas hit three field goals in the second period to lead Alpena to a 26-22 lead at halftime.
Hill scored 28 points to lead all scorers. Rodas, Deitrich and Cook each scored 10 points, Johnson three and Armer one.