Wellsville Severe winter storm threats caused the Top Gun Tournament title game to be pushed up two hours, but there was no way it was going to be canceled.
Not with the Baldwin and Eudora girls squaring off.
The Kaw Valley League rivals will meet again in two weeks in a highly anticipated league showdown, but the prequel Saturday was a dandy.
As expected, each squad's 6-foot standout didn't disappoint. Baldwin senior Emily Brown shook off the flu and scored 26 points, while Eudora senior Lauren Kracl poured in a game-high 33.
Kracl got her points, but Brown and Baldwin got the win, 63-52, in front of a rowdy crowd at Wellsville High.
"We had the heart of a champion tonight," Baldwin coach Eric Toot said. "All of our girls stepped up. We had some girls come off the bench when we got in foul trouble, and it was just a total team effort tonight."
The competitive tone was set in the first quarter as both teams traded baskets and battled to a 14-14 tie. Baldwin (11-2) spread the scoring around while Eudora's points all came from Kracl and freshman sister Erin Kracl.
Foul trouble struck Baldwin in the second quarter, so the Bulldogs turned to their bench for assistance.
Reserves Erica Ogle, Kara Tompkins and Kelsey Verhaeghe came in to help defensively against Lauren Kracl. Despite giving up almost six inches in height, they limited Kracl to four free throws and allowed Baldwin to forge a 27-23 lead at halftime.
"One thing our bench can do is they can come in and play defense," Toot said. "Sometimes they struggle on the offensive end, but defensively they give you everything they've got. They gave us some huge minutes when we were in foul trouble."
Kracl regained her touch in the third quarter, but lacked the offensive support necessary to cut into Baldwin's lead. The Bulldogs stretched their lead to as many as 14 points, but never were content.
"Not with a player like Lauren," Toot said. "You just know that she can score 12 or 14 in a matter of minutes."
Sure enough, Kracl scored 13 points in the fourth quarter. Her 12-foot jumper pulled the Cardinals (10-3) to 53-47 with two minutes left, but that's as close as they came.
"That team beat us by 40 points last year," Eudora coach Cara Kimberlin said, "and then we come into this and play like that against a good team. I'm really proud of the girls tonight. They were hustling and busting their butts all night."
Ottawa 48, Saint Marys 45
The Ottawa girls trailed for three quarters against Saint Marys before finally taking control midway through the fourth quarter. Megan Ramsey's three-pointer with 1:45 left put the Cyclones ahead for good. Ramsey and Jara Vance each hit free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Ramsey led Ottawa with 13 points, Vance scored 11, and Karessa Lewis added 10. Brooke DeVader led Saint Marys with 21 points.