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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Kevin LabotkaRylee Hees tries to knock the ball away from a Southern Boone player Feb. 28 during the Pintos’ game against the Eagles.

ELDON, Mo. — The Class 3 No. 3 California girls basketball team's season ended with a tough loss to the No. 6 Southern Boone Eagles 53-34 Feb. 28 in the Class 3 District 9 championship game. The Pintos end the season with a record of 21-6.

California defeated Versailles 70-15 on Feb. 24 in the first round and Blair Oaks 46-33 in the semifinal round on Feb. 26 en route to the championship appearance.

Head coach Bobby Sangster said he hopes the returning players use the championship game as motivation for next year.

"I hope they use it as fuel," Sangster said. "They have the desire to get better, and I hope we learn from tonight."

At the end of the first quarter, the Pintos trailed Southern Boone 13-7. Tristan Porter scored all seven points for the Pintos in the quarter.

Early in the second quarter, California trailed 15-7. With just over six minutes to go in the first half, Tristan Porter made two free throws and made it a 17-13 game. After a basket by Bailey Lage and a three-pointer by Tristan Porter, the Pintos were within one point at 19-18 with 2:27 left to go in the first half. California then took a slim one-point lead of their own after a basket by Makayla Schanzmeyer made it a 20-19 game with 1:37 left in the half. The Eagles made a free throw to tie the game at 20-20, but the Pintos retook the lead at 21-20 after a free throw by Schanzmeyer with 48 seconds left. The lead bounced back to Southern Boone at 22-21 right before halftime.

Southern Boone took control of the game in the second half — in the third quarter, the Eagles outscored California 18-7. Southern Boone started the third quarter on a 4-0 run to make it a 26-21 game. A three-pointer by Tristan Porter made it a 26-24 game with just over 6:30 to go. The Pintos then tied the game at 26-26 and later at 28-28 with 4:39 left in the quarter. Despite the close scoreline early on, Southern Boone pulled further away after a 12-0 run to end the quarter leading 40-28.

In the fourth quarter, the Eagles led 49-28 with 4:46 left in the game after starting the quarter with another run, this time 9-0. Not much was going the Pintos' way in the second half, as missed shots and turnovers forced by Southern Boone's tough defense made life difficult for California.

Sangster said he told his team to stay in the moment in response.

"Try to get the next play," Sangster said. "Get the next best play, get one stop and then get a score, and then one more stop and just chip away. You can't get it all back at once. You (have) to make that next best play for the Lady Pintos. We gave it all we could tonight; we tried to do that, it's just when shots fall for one team and don't fall for the other, it gets really ugly really fast."

California had 18 turnovers in the second half. Sangster said this was because the Eagles were very strong on defense.

"They were very physical, they played with an edge and they took the win from us," Sangster said.

The Pintos did not get on the board in the final quarter until there was just less than four minutes to go — that made it a 51-28 game. With just over a minute left, California trailed 53-31. Paige Lamm made a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the game its final score of 53-34.

Tristan Porter led California with 22 points, followed by Paige Lamm and Makayla Schanzmeyer with three points each. California made four three-pointers in the game and went 10-11 from the free throw line.

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