South Iron Boys, Ellington Girls Bring Home State Titles
Two Black River League teams can now call themselves state champions. South Iron’s boys and Ellington’s girls were victorious during competition at the MSHSAA ShowMe Showdown Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in Springfield.
South Iron Boys Beat Mounds City
South Iron boys basketball team beat Mounds City 69-50 in the Class 1 State Championship Game Saturday at JQH Arena on the campus of Missouri State University. The Lady Panthers finished fourth.
South Iron last won the state championship in 1965; this was the Panthers’ second in school history. The Panthers last trip to the Final Four was 13 years ago when South Iron finished second; some of this year’s players were managers that year.
South Iron finished the season with a 25-4 record. Their four losses came at the hands of much larger schools—Helias Catholic, Vashon, Cardinal Ritter, and Cape Girardeau Notre Dame.
“These guys are very, very special,” said Coach Dusty Dinkins. “They have played together for many, many years. They started when they were barely big enough to hold a basketball. They put in the time and effort and had the desire to do this one day.
“A lot of people have that dream, and it never comes true,” Dinkins continued. “This group of young men and myself are very blessed. We have had a lot of success along the way. They worked very hard, and we’re very thankful for the results that have come forth from that hard work. I can’t speak highly enough of these young men.”
South Iron led 13-4 after the first period; Mounds City rallied to take a 29-28 lead at halftime.
Coach Dinkins stressed defense during the break. He told his team to make Mounds City to work for every shot. The players implemented Dinkins’ game plan.
South Iron took control in the third period outscoring Mounds City 17-8 and led 45-37 into the final quarter. South Iron outscored Mound City 41-21 in the second half
South Iron stretched their lead to as many as 23 points in the 4th quarter. South Iron out rebounded Mounds City 41-29.
Brock Wakefield led South Iron with 22 and 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and three steals.
Marco Burse added 20 points and 13 rebounds. DJ Prater had 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. Drenin Dinkins scored 9 points and had 9 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. Luke Lunyou scored 6 points, pulled down 2 rebounds, and had five steals and one assist.
Mound City was cold from beyond the arc, making just 6 of 36 attempts (17%) and shot 18-61 from the field overall (30%). Meanwhile South Iron shot 53%, making 27 of 51 attempts.
In semifinal action, the Panthers beat Higbee 75-40. South Iron took an early lead and controlled the game’s tempo.
South Iron outscored Higbee 19-10 in the first quarter. The Panthers offense exploded in the second quarter, scoring 28 and holding Higbee to nine. At the half, South Iron led 47-19.
South Iron outscored Higbee 18-14 in the third quarter and 10-7 in the fourth.
Drenin Dinkins and Marco Bureach each had a double-double for South Iron. Dinkins scored 21 and pulled down 10 rebounds. He also had two assists. Burse had 15 pounds, 10 rebounds, and one steal.
Brock Wakefield scored 16 points, pulled down eight rebounds, had seven assists, and four steals. bounds, had seven assists, and four steals.
Champ McMurry came off the bench and scored 7 points and pulled down 5 rebounds. Luke Lunyou scored 6 points, had 3 assists, and 1 steal.
The Panthers shot 55.7 percent in the game. Higbee shot 27 percent from two-point range.
South Iron Girls
South Iron girls took fourth place Saturday falling 40-52 to Walnut Grove in the third-place game.
Walnut Grove lead 14-13 after one quarter of play. At the half, South Iron trailed 24-30. Walnut Grove extended the lead in the third, outscoring South Iron 17-8.
Madison Ayers led the offense with 12 points. She had 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Enzley Dinkins scored 10 points, had 13 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. Allecia Cornell also scored 10 points; she had 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. Drew Gayle scored 5 points and had 2 steals. Anna Parker scored 3 points.
The Lady Panthers struggled to get shots to fall. They shot 34 percent from two-point range and 40 percent from three-point range.
In the semifinals, the South Iron girls basketball team had a lead late, but fell short in the end of their semifinal game 47-43 to the Leeton Lady Bulldogs.
It was a slow start for both sides as the first points of the entire game didn’t come until the 2:12 mark of the first quarter. Leeton led 6-5 at the end of the first quarter.
South Iron offense came to life in the second quarter. The Lady Panthers outscored Leeton 11-6 to take a 4-point lead into the half.
Leeton was able to cut the South Iron lead to one before the end of three and entered the fourth with the Panthers leading 30-29. The Panthers had the lead for most of the fourth, but the Bulldogs kept hanging around before finally taking the lead for good at the 3:41 mark of the fourth quarter capping off a 5-0 run.
Enzley Dinkins led South Iron’s offense with 14 points; she pulled down nine rebounds and had one steal. Madison Ayers added 13 points and had 6 rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
Megan Lashley scored 6 poings and had 4 rebounds. Allecia Cornell scored 9 points and had four rebounds and two steals. Drew Gayle had 6 rebounds and one steal.
Ellington Wins First State Basketball Title
The Ellington Lady Whippets basketball team won the Class 2 state tournament. The win is the first state title for the Ellington basketball program. The Lady Whippets had a 63-56 victory over the top-ranked Wellington-Napoleon Tigers on Friday at JQH Arena in Springfield.
The Whippets where the Cinderella team of the tournament. Blue Eye was predicted to win the tournament and Wellington-Napoleon entered the tournament as the top-ranked team in the Final Four.
The Ellington state championship is something that many fans have been dreaming of for many years; some have been wanting that state title for decades. The victory was sweet not only for the team but for the fans.
The Lady Whippets were one of three Black River League teams that reached the Missouri State High School Activities Association Final Four. South Iron’s boys and girls teams competed in Class 1; the boys came away with the title and the South Iron girls finished fourth.
The Ellington game was not short of theatrics. Ellington was down late in the fourth quarter and came from behind to claim the title.
“I am proud of the way our girls hung in there and fought until the end,” Ellington coach David Burrows said. “When you go from up 14 or 15 to down one with four minutes to go you have to have a team that can keep moving forward.”
A young Ellington Whippets team took the court. There was no senior on the team. Two juniors, two sophomores, and a freshman comprised the starting five.
“We came into this game knowing we were the underdogs,” Burrows said. “Our girls are very smart and I thought played team ball. We came together as the season went along and I think that maturity showed in this game.
Ellington shot 48.8 percent from the field and 53.3 percent from three-point range in the game. From the free-throw line, the Lady Whippets shot 93.8 percent.
Five Ellington players scored. Three were in double-digits.
Kaylee King scored 19 points to lead the offense. Gretchen Hackworth had 17 points, and Laura Gore had 14 points. Dylan Price added eight and Ellarae Morton scored five.
Priced pulled down nine rebounds and had six assists. Hackwoth and Gore each had six rebounds. Abbie Harper had five rebounds. Moreton had three rebounds. King had rebound rebounds and two assists.
Wellington-Napoleon was led by Bree Shannon with 11 points.
Neither team scored the first minute and a half of the game. Wellington-Napoleon scored the first three points of the game from the charity stripes. Ellington got on the scoreboard with 5:56 left in the first quarter when Gretchen Hackworth scored two free throws.
Wellington took an 8-2 lead before the Lady Whippets scored again. With 4:25 left in the first quarter, Kaylee King hit a three pointer to cut the lead to three. Gretchen Hackworth hit a jumper with 3:58 left in the first quarter to cut the deficit to one. The Lady Whippets took the lead when Kaylee King hit a jumper. Gretchen Hackworth then added two free throws to increase Ellington’s lead to 11-8 with 2:44 left in the first quarter. Wellington made a layup with 1:58 left in the quarter to cut Ellington’s lead to one. Gretchen Hackworth hit a jumper to extend the lead back to three. With 25 seconds left in the quarter, Wellington-Napoleon hit two free throws to cut Ellington’s lead back to one. With 11 seconds left in the first, Hackworth hit another jumper to extend the Ellington lead back to three.
Ellington maintained the lead throughout the second. The Lady Whippets defense made it difficult for Wellington-Napoleon to score throughout most of the second quarter. With 1:28 left in the half, the Lady Whippets led 28-19. Then Wellington-Napoleon made a run, scoring seven unanswered points. The Lady Whippets held a slim two-point lead at the break.
In the third quarter, Ellington outscored Wellington-Napoleon 22-17 to extend their lead to seven.
Ellington’s seven-point lead didn’t last long in the fourth. Wellington scored the first four points of the quarter to get within three points of Ellington. Ellarae Morton made a layup with 6:40 left in the game to extend the Lady Whippets lead back to five. WNHS scored the next four points to cut Ellington’s lead to one. With 4:18 left in the game, Wellington-Napoleon made a layup to take a 53-52 lead. Dylan Price made two free throws to regain the lead for Ellington with 3:51 left in the game. Kaylee King then made a layup to extend Ellington’s lead back to three. Laura Gore hit a three with 1:36 left to increase Ellington’s lead to six. Kaylee King was sent to the free throw line late in the game and added four points from the charity stripe.
Nerves for the Whippets showed early in the game as the Lady Tigers (24-3) took an 8-2 lead. However, those emotions subsided as Gretchen Hackworth ignited a 9-0 surge that gave Ellington an 11-8 advantage and its first lead at the 2:58 mark of the opening period. Hackworth scored 10 of her 17 game points in the first eight minutes.
“Coming into the game I told the team we had to do three things,” Burrows said. “First was to play solid defense. Next was rebound and then we had to take high percentage shots. I didn’t feel like we did that well in the first half. I told the girls at halftime that they had 16 minutes left in the season and we needed to refocus and put everything we had on the floor for the second half.”
“From day one I told the girls that one through seven, when they hit the floor they need to be ready to shoot,” Burrows said. “If they feel comfortable then they need to put the ball up.”
The title is the first in the school’s basketball history and a tone-setter for a program that was revived in 2018 and won just one game in its first season back.
“I knew when I took over that we had a tremendous group of girls,” Burrows said. “Did I think it would come together this quickly, no. But the girls earned this and they worked for this and now the title of champion can never be taken from them. I am proud of what we accomplished.”
Ellington Beat Blue Eye
In Semifinal Action
The semifinal game had Ellington fans on the edge of their seats. The beloved Lady Whippets trailed 0-7 midway through the first quarter in action with Blue Eye in the Class 2 girls semifinal of the MSHSAA Show-Me Showdown at JQH Arena. But, the final score told a different story — a 68-58 victory for the Lady Whippets.
Ellington grabbed the momentum and never trailed again after wresting the lead away at 15-13 on a layup by Gretchen Hackworth early in the second quarter.
In turning the game around, Ellington had to solve Blue Eye’s defensive pressure.
“We don’t see a lot of teams that can press us. We hadn’t been tested,” Coach Burrows said. “We just settled down.”
Hackworth finished with 20 points and nine rebounds, with 14 and six coming in the second half.
Kaylee King scored a game-high 25. Sixteen of her points came in the first half when she was 4-of-5 on 3-point shots.
The Lady Whippets led 31-27 at the half.
Ellington’s biggest lead came at 54-36 on a 3-pointer by Laura Gore with 7:08 left in the game, but Blue Eye then started steadily pulled closer. They got to within seven.
Hackworth hit a pair of free throws and King four in the last minute to seal the victory.
The game was one was equally matched and the statistics prove that point: Both teams made 21 field goals, but Blue Eye took 59 (35.6 percent) and Ellington took 43 (48.8 percent). The Lady Whippets led 38-29 in rebounds and made 17-of-23 free throws to 9-of-11 for Blue Eye.
Laura Gore added 12 points (four treys) and Dylan Price had nine rebounds, eight points and seven assists for Ellington.
“We stressed rebounding, playing defense and taking high-percentage shots,” Burrows said. “Typically, if you can have success with those three categories, you will come out on top.”
“Typically if you win the boards you can win the game and that definitely worked out in our favor tonight,” Burrows said. “It’s an amazing win for these girls. They were able to get out and execute everything they wanted to tonight.”
Junior guard Laura Gore also scored in double digits. Gore tallied all dozen of her points on four 3-pointers.