COMMERCE — For the second time in 18 hours, Krum needed a comeback to keep its state championship hopes alive. And for the second straight day, the Lady Cats produced a ferocious rally to extend their season by at least five more days.
Krum defeated Pittsburg 41-28 on Saturday afternoon at Texas A&M-Commerce in the Class 3A Region II final. The Lady Cats advanced to the girls state tournament for the first time since 1982, when they where a Class A program, and are one of four teams remaining in this year’s bracket.
The Lady Cats outscored Pittsburg 20-1 in the final period to erase a six-point fourth-quarter deficit and keep the Lady Pirates from reaching their first state tournament.
Krum senior guard Julia Schmaltz had a game-high 14 points and hit six of eight free throws in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Rachel Wallace, a Southeastern Oklahoma State signee, struggled from the field but scored 12 points.
“For the first two quarters, we weren’t playing our game,” Wallace said. “But in the third quarter, we came out with the fire that we were going to come back and play.”
For the second day in a row, Krum (29-6) was sluggish at the start, and Pittsburg (30-6) took full advantage.
Pittsburg jumped out to an 18-7 lead in the opening quarter behind senior forward Cheyenne Ramey’s seven points. Ramey finished with a team-high nine points.
The second quarter produced about as little scoring as a quarter of basketball can produce. Krum’s offensive struggles continued, while Pittsburg was very deliberate with its possessions and committed eight turnovers. Each team scored two points in the frame.
Krum shot 23.5 percent from the field in the first half, while Pittsburg shot 64 percent but committed 10 turnovers. The Lady Cats trailed by 11 at halftime.
“Our heads weren’t here yet,” Schmaltz said. “Then Coach D [Lana Degelia] roped us back in. She challenged us again.
“This is it. Sixteen minutes until your season’s over, and that’s not what we planned for.”
The Lady Cats remained persistent on the offensive end, and things slowly began to turn their way.
“We didn’t attack the gaps in the zone,” Schmaltz said. “Had we attacked the gaps in the beginning, it wouldn’t have been an issue. But once we started attacking and not settling for outside shots, we got everything going.”
The Lady Cats took the lead with 3:14 left in the game when Wallace cut behind the Lady Pirates’ defense and banked in a close shot.
The Krum fans roared each time senior forward Callie Craddock drew a charge. She was run over four times and drew four charges, giving her an unofficial total of nine for the regional tournament.
Pittsburg, the District 13-3A runner-up, couldn’t score enough to keep Krum at bay. The Lady Pirates missed eight of their 11 shots and six of eight free throws in the second half. Pittsburg finished the game with 24 turnovers, while Krum had 11.
“With this group of girls, we know that anything’s possible,” Degelia said. “We know that we can come from behind. We’ve done it more than I care to remember this season.
“I don’t ever give up on them, because I know what they have.”
Following the game, after each Krum player and assistant coach climbed a ladder and snipped off a piece of the net, Degelia ascended the ladder. She cut the last strands of the net, turned and sheepishly held it in the air toward the Krum fans, who roared their approval.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Wallace said of reaching the state tournament. “It’s been a goal we’ve all wanted since we were little. It’s unbelievable. It’s indescribable right now, that we actually got our goal.”
Krum is now two wins away from cutting a net down in Austin.
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Krum 41, Pittsburg 28
Krum 7 2 12 20 — 41
Pittsburg 18 2 7 1 — 28
Krum (29-6) — Julia Schmatlz 14, Rachel Wallace 12, Diamond Martinez 9, Caitlyn Arnold 3, Callie Craddock 2, Kylee Myers 1.
Pittsburg (30-6) — Cheyenne Ramey 9, Meagan Peters 6, Shakira Duffey 5, DeNasia Watson 4, Kasey Avinger 4.