COMMERCE — The most important statistic of Friday night’s Class 3A Region II girls basketball semifinal between Krum and Texarkana Liberty-Eylau wasn’t the amount of points anybody scored.
It was the five charges Krum senior forward Callie Craddock took on Friday night at Texas A&M Commerce’s Field House.
Craddock’s five charges, especially a couple late in the contest, fueled Krum to a 60-56 victory against Liberty-Eylau in a frantic finish.
Krum (28-6) advances to face Pittsburg today at 1 p.m. at Texas A&M-Commerce’s Field House and is one win away from advancing to the 3A state tournament. Pittsburg defeated Celina 41-36 on Friday night to seal its spot in the regional final.
Senior guard Rachel Wallace scored a team-high 22 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Senior guard Julia Schmaltz had 16 points, 14 of which came in the first half. Krum had three players score in double figures, but no number was bigger than the five charges Craddock took.
“Taking a charge, first of all, against kids like that, is hard to sacrifice your body,” Krum head coach Lana Degelia said. “But Callie will sacrifice her body every time. She stepped up and made some big plays for us, momentum-changing plays on the defensive end.”
Liberty-Eylau (26-5) was led by senior guard Imani Wright’s 26 points. Wright, who has signed to play with Baylor, went 8 of 20 from the field. Lady Leopards senior guard Sharde’ Collins, an Arkansas-Little Rock signee, scored 14 in the loss.
Krum trailed by 11 points on two occasions to a team that’s made the regional tournament the past nine seasons and won the 3A state title in 2010. The Lady Cats trailed for most of the game and were down by five points as the game entered the fourth quarter.
“I think we came out playing a little scared early on,” Degelia said. “They [Liberty-Eylau] were physical. We let them push us around. And then I challenged them [Krum]. How much heart do you have? How bad do you really want it? And they responded to the challenge. That’s just them.”
When the Lady Cats couldn’t find its shots from the perimeter to go down in the opening half, Krum turned to Schmaltz. Schmaltz carried Krum in the second quarter and scored 10 of the team’s 15 points in the quarter. All of Schmaltz’s points came mere feet from the basket, including a short jumper she banked off the glass as time expired in the half.
After the Lady Cats had trimmed the lead to two in the second quarter, Liberty-Eylau quickly reeled off eight straight points and had Krum momentarily reeling, eventually leading by 11 points.
Krum salvaged the quarter and stayed within striking distance by closing the half on a 5-0 run to pull within 29-23.
But as Liberty-Eylau built momentum throughout the contest, it evaporated each time Craddock’s body crumbled and hit the floor.
Craddock’s charges in the fourth quarter helped curb the Lady Leopards’ momentum and allowed Krum to chip away at the lead. When Diamond Martinez scored a breakaway layup with 3:04 left in the contest, it capped a 9-0 run by Krum and sent the blue-shirted section of the bleachers into frenzy.
After each charge, Craddock seemed to be in an immense amount of pain, not to mention the time she was whistled for a foul after she was hit in the throat.
“It’s worth more than anything in the world,” Craddock said. “I’d take 100 more before this was over.”
Craddock’s self-sacrifice was almost for naught. Liberty-Eylau’s Alize’ Pegue knocked down a 3-pointer with five seconds left and cut Krum’s lead to one. Pegue then stole the inbounds near the baseline and fired a pass under the basket.
The pass found the stomach of Krum’s Allison Beck, who was fouled as time expired. After a lengthy discussion, Lady Leopards head coach Robert Cochran was whistled for a technical, and Wallace knocked down three of four free throws to seal the game. Four-tenths of a second were put back on the clock, but it didn’t matter as the clock quickly expired after Wallace’s free throws.
Wright had her hands on her hips as she cried and clenched the top of her jersey with her teeth as Krum advanced to the regional final.
“It’s just one step closer to our goal,” Wallace said. “We have a goal, and this is just one step. We just have to take care of business tomorrow.”
Krum 60, Texarkana Liberty-Eylau 56
Liberty-Eylau 15 14 13 14 — 56
Krum 8 15 14 23 — 60
Liberty-Elyau (26-5) — Imani Wright 26, Sharde’ Collins 14, Lauren Godfrey 10, Alize’ Pegue 5, Morgan Utsey 1.
Krum (28-6) — Rachel Wallace 22, Julia Schmaltz 16, Callie Craddock 10, Allison Beck 5, Diamond Martinez 5, Caitlyn Arnold 2.