For the eighth time in 16 years, the Clopton Lady Hawks advanced to the Class 2 Final Four. Though they had hoped to pick up a “W,” Clopton’s squad has nothing to be ashamed about in finishing fourth.
In the third place game against Hartville, there were runs made by both teams before one last Lady Eagles’ push handed Clopton a 60-55 loss.
The loss meant it was the final game for seniors Jillian Lockard, Kaitlyn Kuntz, Allison Hunter, and Calynn Lockard.
“I’m extremely proud of these girls,” said Clopton head coach Deaven Streed. “They’ve dedicated four years to this program and have a heck a lot of success.”
“This team is actually, probably one of the best teams we’ve ever had come through Clopton,” said an emotional Allison Hunter in the Media Room after the game as she also reflected on the injury she was able to come back from.
“It’s been our dream since we were kids, all of us,” Jillian Lockard said. “We have just a strong bond. I don’t think any other team has the bond that we have. To make it here together is just a great experience.”
Kaitlyn Kuntz is hoping her team making it to state will inspire the many young players who came to support the team this weekend.
“When I was younger, I would just sit in the stands thinking oh I wish I could get there…,” she noted.
Senior Calynn Lockard noted her team’s focus started in the locker room before every game.
“One thing we’ve focused on this whole season was praying to God before we ever went out there,” she said. “We made sure that he was our main focus. Yea, maybe we didn’t get first, but we got to state. There’s a lot of seniors who did not even make it this far. Yea, we maximized the games we could get in our senior season. They are the most dedicated group of hard working girls that I’ve ever played with.”
In the third quarter, Jillian Lockard scored six points to help Clopton early. With Calynn Lockard out after she hurt her face on the opening play of the game, Megan Harrelson made the most of her appearance inserted quickly in the lineup. She made a big three-pointer for the first points of the game and scored five points in the first as Hartville had a 14-12 lead.
In the second quarter, Kuntz scored seven points as she had a big three-pointer. After Caragan Lockard’s bucket tied the game at 26, Hartville ended the first half on a 6-0 run to go into halftime up by six points.
After regrouping at the break, Clopton’s offense and defense took it to Hartville in the third quarter.
Clopton put together an 11-0 run and extended that run to 16-5. The Lady Hawks finished the third quarter with a two point lead, putting them in the driver’s seat for a solid fourth quarter. Kuntz made two three-pointers and scored eight points in the third while Jillian Lockard had six points.
“That just speaks volumes to this team,” Streed said. “I’ll be honest, they’ve been like that all year. We’ve found ourselves down a couple of times in some big games, and we’re able to rally and make a game of it, bring us back, and often times win the game.”
In the fourth quarter, Hartville managed to put itself in position to take a six point lead with 1:52 left. Akers then hit a big three-pointer to cut the lead to three with 1:42 left.
After two free throws by Caragan Lockard closed the gap to just one point with 1:15 left, a couple of fouls led Hartville’s Sadie Chisum to hit four straight free throws. A later turnover and Kuntz’s missed three-pointer with eight seconds left helped Hartville seal the five point victory.
Clopton won the third quarter 18-10 while Hartville won the fourth, 18-11. Kuntz led the Lady Hawks with 15 points, two rebounds, and two steals; Jillian Lockard tallied 14 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, and two steals; Calynn Lockard had nine points, seven rebounds, one assist, and one steal; Caragan Lockard had six points, seven rebounds, one assist, and one steal; Akers scored six points and three rebounds; and Harrelson had five points, two steals, and one rebound.