Lady Pintos take out Lady Eagles in district opener

Senior Lady Pinto basketball players and their parents were recognized at the Senior Night ceremony prior to California's varsity game Thursday at California High School. Above is senior Sydney Deeken with parents Mary Beth and Jim Deeken. (Also recognized were senior members of the CHS Sounds of Joy.)

Senior Lady Pinto basketball players and their parents were recognized at the Senior Night ceremony prior to California's varsity game Thursday at California High School. Above is senior Sydney Deeken with parents Mary Beth and Jim Deeken. (Also recognized were senior members of the CHS Sounds of Joy.) Photo by April Arnett.

Despite the absence of starters Sydney Deeken and Kelsey Roush, the California Lady Pintos trotted to a 59-32 win against Eugene in the first round of the Class 3 District 8 Tournament Monday night at Blair Oaks High School, Wardsville.

"This really says something about our girls," California Coach Bobby Sangster said. "At this point in the season, roles are set and it's easy for someone to check out thinking they're never going to get to play. But not these girls, they're always ready. Kelsey stepped it up when Sydney was out for the season, then Meleigha (Caudel) stepped it up when Kelsey was out for the season."

As if two season-ending injuries weren't bad enough, Caudel injured her ankle during the second quarter of Monday's district contest, and didn't play the rest of the game.

"Meleigha could be out for a week," Sangster said. "Nothing's broken. There's a slim chance she'll play Wednesday (today). But if we have to play without her, others will step up their game."

Caudel started the night off with two three-pointers coupled with a bucket from sister Mara Caudel to give the Lady Pintos an 8-0 edge. The Lady Eagles were held scoreless in the first quarter until Nola Polly hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to leave Eugene trailing 12-3.

The Lady Pintos outscored the Lady Eagles 19-9 in the second quarter, 9-7 in the third and 19-13 in the final frame to secure the win.

Mara Caudel led California with 11 points, followed by Caitlin Meyer with nine. Ashtyn Goans and Renee Roberts each had eight.

Eugene was led by Chelsea Doeroff with nine points. Lexi Dickerson and Polly each contributed seven.

With the win, second-seeded California (17-8) will play third-seeded Blair Oaks at 7:30 p.m. today in the semifinal round. (The Lady Falcons defeated sixth-seeded Hallsville 55-27 Monday.)

"You know, we're happy to have the opportunity to still be playing," Sangster said. "Blair Oaks is our rival and we're going to battle. We will be prepared. Win, lose or draw, we'll hold our heads high knowing we did all we could."

Other Monday night action at the district tourney included the following: top-seeded Boonville defeated eighth-seeded Versailles 70-31, and fifth-seeded Southern Boone defeated fourth-seeded Centralia 57-43.

Boonville will play Southern Boone at 6 p.m. today in the other semifinal contest.

The championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday.

Previously, California hosted Blair Oaks Thursday for Senior Night and the last games of the regular season for California, where the Lady Pintos lost a close contest to the Lady Falcons, 63-60, and the Tri-County Conference title. Had California won, the Lady Pintos would've shared the title with Blair Oaks.

The Lady Falcons led 18-16 after the first quarter, 33-27 at the half, and 50-42 after three quarters. The Lady Pintos came back with a strong fourth quarter to outscore Blair Oaks 18-13, but it wasn't enough to pull off the win.

California was led by Meleigha Caudel with 15 points and Kamryn Koetting with 14. Cameron Meyer added 11, and Mara Caudel had nine.

Blair Oaks was led by LeeAnn Polowy with 33 points. Sara Jones and Chelsi Emerson added 10 each.

California's JV defeated Blair Oaks 32-31, while the freshman Lady Pintos lost 43-26.

Prior to the varsity game, California seniors Deeken, Meleigha Caudel and Caitlin Meyer, as well as senior members of the CHS Sounds of Joy, along with their parents, were recognized via a special ceremony.

During halftime of the varsity game, Alan Sparks, the official time-keeper for CHS home basketball and football games, was presented a special-ordered coat embossed with the new Pinto logo, for his 22 years of service and dedication.

"Most of us have become used to seeing Alan running our clock at home basketball and football games," CHS Athletic Director Bob Staton said. "He started running the clock for the middle school when he was a middle school student after Keith Walk, who was the athletic director at that time, asked him to take on the task. Alan ran the middle school clock for four years and did such a good job, he was asked to start doing the varsity games. For the past 22 years, Alan has run the clock at all home varsity, JV, freshman and middle school football games. He has also run the clock for all of the home basketball games. He does such a great job that we sometimes take him for granted. We estimated Alan has run the clock for a minimum of 2,122 home Pinto athletic events. This is why we presented him with this special commemorative jacket as a small thank you for his service."

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