For the second time this season, the Mark Twain girls’ basketball team has beaten Van-Far. The Lady Tigers’ most recent win was a 37-21 victory in the consolation semifinals of the 70th Annual Tony Lenzini Basketball Tournament in Palmyra.

“It was tough to play down to their level when we knew that we killed them last time we played them,” Mark Twain junior Alicia Cole said. “We just had to keep our head up and play where you are supposed to be.”

Van-Far scored first on the first of four three-pointers from junior Ciarra Craven, but the lead was short lived. Mark Twain got its first points of the game on a jump shot from Kayla Palmer with 7:04 left in the first and then took the lead on a layup from Mackenzie Grossmann with 6:15 left. Mark Twain would not trail for the rest of the night.

“It was a team effort,” Cole said. “We all worked together and pulled it out.”

The Lady Tigers closed out the first quarter on a 12-1 run to take a 12-4 lead into the second quarter.

“We kind of came out a little slow and a little sloppy tonight,” Mark Twain coach Alex Brandenburg said. “But we did have a 12-4 run to start the game. Defensively we played exceptional tonight. That is kind of what we have been doing well all year, defensively stopping teams and holding them to not very many points. Offensively I would have liked to get some more movement, get the ball in the middle and get some better looks, but at this point we will take a win whenever we can get it.”

In the second quarter, the Lady Tigers’ offense did not put up as many points as in the first quarter, but they weren’t needed either. Mark Twain held Van-Far to a lone free throw during the second quarter.  By the end of the first half, Mark Twain had increased its lead to 19-5.

After the break, neither team scored until 5:43 was left in the third. Mark Twain broke the scoreless second half when Cole hit a jump shot. More than a minute would go by before either team would score again, but when the scoring came, it was Van-Far’s Kambrie Hartsell hitting a three-point shot. A minute and a half later, Craven hit another trey to pull the Lady Indians within 10 points at 21-11.

That sparked Mark Twain to call a timeout.

“We kind of reverted to some bad habits,” Brandenburg said. “We got lazy on defense and weren’t playing the way we usually do and have been playing. We just had to get it together and figure it out how we are going to do this. Our effort had to get better because we walked into this game with not our best effort.”

Following the timeout, the Lady Tigers responded with a 10-0 run to increase their lead to 20 points. Mark Twain went into the final eight minutes of play leading Van-Far 31-11.

“I put it on the girls,” Brandenburg said. “I said if you want it, go get it. They accepted the challenge and they went on that run.”

Mark Twain increased the lead to a game-high 24 points, 35-11, with 4:08 left in the game. But, over the final three minutes of the game, Van-Far came roaring back.  The Lady Indians hit two treys while outscoring Mark Twain 10-2 during that time. Overall Van-Far outscored Mark Twain 10-6 in the fourth quarter.

“The effort just wasn’t there (at the end),” Brandenburg said. “We have got to be able to play from start to finish no matter what the score is. We have talked about that all year. Mostly it just comes down to effort from the beginning of the game to the end.”

Grossmann led the Lady Tigers in scoring with 14 points. But, her string of consectutive double-doubles games came to an end as she managed only 8 rebounds and 7 blocked shots. Grossmann also recorded 3 steals for Mark Twain.

“She (Grossmann) played well,” Brandenburg said. “It was obvious they were focusing on her and they didn’t want her to get going. They made life difficult on her and were all over her tonight. She continued to work hard and fought through it and had a great game. I was proud of the effort she gave.”

Cole finished the night with 8 points and 7 rebounds while Kyley Barnes turned in 6 points and 8 boards for the Lady Tigers. Palmer had 4 points and pulled down 4 rebounds.

“I was just trying to help my team out,” Cole said. “You take the shots when you are open and just play your game.”
Brandenburg was pleased with Cole’s performance.

“Alicia Cole had been in a little bit of a shooting slump the last week or so,” Brandenburg said. “She had been frustrated. She had been putting the time in at the gym after practice shooting and it paid off tonight.”

Van-Far’s Craven led the Lady Indians with 12 points, all of them coming on three-pointers. The Lady Indians next highest scorer was Hartsell who finished the night with 3 points. Brooke Johnson led Van-Far with 9 rebounds while Breanna Strange pulled down 7 boards for the Lady Indians.

“Everything she (Craven) was shooting seemed to be going in,” Brandenburg said. That girl is a very good shooter and she can knock it down if you leave her open.”

With the loss, Van-Far is eliminated from the tournament. Mark Twain advances to Friday’s consolation championship game. The Lady Tigers will play the winner of tonight’s Canton versus Highland game.

“We are looking ahead to Friday,” Brandenburg said. “We are looking for an opportunity to get a trophy and two wins out of this tournament which has been a goal of ours from when we got here.”