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Girls basketball: Moravia pulls away from M-U on Senior Night

Jan. 17—MORAVIA — Alexa Bedford has her sights set on a Caitlin Clark jersey.

It was within her grasp on Tuesday night.

Bedford produced a career-best double-double before being honored along with senior teammates Hayleigh Starr and Makayla Snow as part of a special night for the Moravia High School girls basketball team. By scoring a career-high 19 points to go along with 12 rebounds, Bedford helped lead the Mohawks to a 50-15 Bluegrass Conference win over Moulton-Udell.

There was no doubt about the outcome of the Senior Night contest heading into the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The only drama left was whether Bedford would produce her first 20-point effort of her high school basketball career, which has some personal high stakes for Moravia's leading scorer.

"My stepdad was going to buy me a Caitlin Clark jersey if I got to 20 points," Bedford said. "I was really going for it at the end of the game."

Bedford had a couple looks from the field and four shots from the free throw line to secure her 20th point. The closest Bedford came was her second free throw attempt late in the contest that rimmed in and out.

Bedford slapped her hands together, but kept a smile on her face. Besides leading the Mohawks to a Senior Night win, Bedford has confidence she'll get her hands on that jersey from her father sooner rather than later.

"It's okay. I'm going to go after 20 points on Thursday (at Essex)," Bedford said. "I'm definitely going to try again."

Kaylen Robinson added a double-double of her own for the Mohawks, scoring 14 points while pulling in a game-high 13 rebounds. Moravia used a 47-29 rebounding edge over the Eagles to help build an early lead before pulling away in the second half scoring all 16 points in the third quarter.

"Considering that we haven't been able to practice or do any game prep because of the weather, that's huge for us," Moravia head girls basketball coach Matt Finley said. "There are some things that are starting to show in terms of turning around for us."

Like Bedford, Finley was hoping that the Moravia senior could hit her personal milestone. The Mohawk head coach left Bedford out for an additional three minutes before finally making the final substitution of the night with just over a minute left allowing for Bedford to receive a hand from the crowd at the Moravia High School Gymnasium.

"It was tough there at the end," Finley said. "I kept trying to give her the opportunity to get there. I went as long as I could before I finally decided to take her out and give her that honor of coming off the floor as a senior."

Madison Barber led Moulton-Udell with five points coming on consecutive made shots midway through the fourth quarter. The Eagles struggled from the field after an initial jumper by Miah Burgher closed out M-U's opening possession, giving M-U its only lead of the night at 2-0.

"I knew it might be kind of slow going offensively, but the defensive end is where I felt like we really struggled early in the game," M-U head girls basketball coach Jason Ogden said. "If you take care of those things, rebound and limit their chances, maybe the kids think differently about how their offense goes."

The Eagles (0-11, 0-6 Bluegrass) hit just two shots from the field in the first half before being shutout in the third quarter. M-U, however, finished the game outscoring Moravia 10-6 in the fourth quarter in hopes of building some confidence as the Eagles prepare for three scheduled games over three consecutive days later this week.

"I told the girls going into the fourth quarter that we were going to run a simple zone offense with cuts. I think they relaxed a little bit," Ogden said. "It's hard. We've been out of school since last Thursday, had one shootaround before the second round of storms hit, but I didn't feel like our effort was where it needed to be at the start of this one.

"We just have to keep looking for those little victories. This is a team that is growing up. I thought we took a few steps back tonight, but we just need to keep moving forward."

Moravia, meanwhile, has put up 50 points in each of its past two games each coming right after taking the court without any practice time due to the recent winter storms. Three different players reached double figures last Thursday at Wayne in a 54-50 non-conference road loss before Tuesday's Senior Night performance in which the Mohawks used more balanced scoring and balanced defense to pick up the win with seven different players collecting at least one of Moravia's 18 steals against the Eagles.

"We're finally starting to click," Bedford said. "We weren't doing great on offense earlier in the season. We're finally starting to get the hang of things and we're starting to get into the flow."

Starr matched Bedford with a game-high five steals in Tuesday's win while Snow stepped in to grab five rebounds and a pair of steals defensively. With an overall young varsity roster, the leadership of the seniors is proving to be a key midway through a season in which Moravia won just one of its first eight games.

"Those seniors have been basically starting since their sophomore seasons," Finley said. "There are things that I might forget as I get going and they are there to remind me. It's good to have those seniors there for us.

"Even when we're on the bench, we're trying to help out those younger players," Bedford added. "It is kind of sad looking out there knowing that's going to be the team next year and I'm not going to be a part of it."

Both M-U and Moravia (3-9, 3-3 Bluegrass) play on Thursday. The Eagles head to Diagonal while the Mohawks face Essex as both teams will play games on Thursday and Friday. M-U opens the Bluegrass Conference Tournament against Orient-Macksburg on Saturday at Diagonal while Moravia opens at Lamoni on Tuesday.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.