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Diamond comes up short in district championship

Feb. 23—LAMAR — The last time the Diamond Wildcats girls basketball team (25-3) faced the Clever Bluejays (18-9), they walked away with an 18-point loss in early December. Friday's Class 3 District 12 championship was quite a different story, but Clever still came out on top 53-47.

Clever took an early 7-2 lead off of back-to-back 3-pointers by senior forward Bailie McClanahan before a Diamond timeout at 5:10.

Diamond fell victim to the long ball again at 2:40, when Mackenzie Camp buried a 3-pointer to put Clever up 13-4, inducing another Wildcat timeout.

Diamond sophomore Lauren Turner ended a 7-0 Clever run and four-minute Wildcat scoring drought with two free throws to make it a 15-6 game with 1:02 left in the opening quarter. The Wildcats went into the second period trailing by that same score.

Senior Grace Frazier drew the Wildcats to within 7 at 15-8 with 6:40 left in the half on a pull-up jumper in the middle, but Clever responded with back-to-back scores to increase its lead to 19-8 with 5:20 left in the half.

Diamond's Turner followed with a trey at 3:15 to narrow the deficit to 7 at 19-12. Down 22-12, Frazier scored again with a drive in the paint with a little less than two minutes left and made it 22-14. After a Clever free throw, the Bluejays played for the last shot when senior Ireland Jones drove the lane for a bucket that gave Clever a 25-14 lead going into the half.

Diamond dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Bluejays 20-5.

The Wildcats opened the second half on a 7-0 run capped off by a slick Frazier spin move in the paint that pulled Diamond within four points at 25-21 with six minutes left. An Ella Newman free throw for Clever ended the scoreless drought for the Bluejays, but Diamond made it a one-possession game with a MaKaylynn Lafferty score on a Kabrie Parmley assist.

The Wildcats tied the game at 26-26 on a Turner 3-pointer at 4:05. Diamond took its first lead since 2-1 on a transition score from Caitlynn Suhrie off a Frazier assist that made it 30-28 with 3:04 left. A Frazier steal and score made it 32-28 with 2:25 left in the third quarter.

Diamond went into the final frame leading by four at 34-30. Turner drove the lane to make it 36-30, before Clever's McClanahan made good on back-to-back treys to knot the game at 36-36 with 6:50 left.

Diamond regained the lead 38-36 with a Frazier score, and the game remained tight with several lead changes in the final minutes. Frazier gave Diamond a 44-42 lead with 3:10 left, but Jones hit a triple for the Bluejays to give them a 45-44 lead with about three minutes left.

Clever led 47-45 with one minute left and had control of the ball before Turner fouled Jones to stop the clock at 47 seconds. Jones made good on both free throws to put the Clever up 49-45.

A Frazier 3-pointer bounced off the rim at 31 seconds and Clever got the ball out of bounds. Suhrie fouled Jones to stop time at 28 seconds and Jones hit both free throws again to put Clever up 51-45.

McClanahan hit another free throw and Frazier scored with 10 seconds left to make it 52-47. Jones iced the game with another free throw with four seconds left and Clever closed out the 53-47 win.

"We played with the heart of a champion in that second half," Diamond Coach Marty Atnip said. "We were down 11 and really didn't play a good first half. We came out in the third quarter and played with energy on defense and got some shots to fall. I'm proud of the grit and the fight of this team. We tip our hats to the Clever Bluejays, they're a very solid team with a lot of seniors. We didn't lose to a bad team."

Frazier led Diamond with 27 points. Turner added 11 for the Wildcats.

Jones netted 21 for Clever and McClanahan finished with 13.

Clever remained the only Missouri team to have beaten Diamond this season (twice). The Wildcats also lost to St. Mary's Colgan of Pittsburg, Kansas.