The Mark Twain girls basketball team roared back in the fourth quarter Monday but fell short in a 52-47 home loss to North Callaway.

The comeback was too little too late.

Senior McKenzie Lathrom netted 21 points in the second half Monday to keep the Mark Twain girls basketball team in an Eastern Missouri Conference game against visiting North Callaway. 

Lathrom scored on a drive through the lane with 4 minutes, 10 seconds remaining to start an 11-3 run for the Lady Tigers, who slimmed their 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to four with just under a minute left.

Mark Twain (11-12, 5-3 EMO) never got closer. 

North Callaway junior Kenzie Ausfahl converted a shot from close range with 32 seconds left before tacking on a pair of free throws with 13 seconds on the clock.

Lathrom drained a deep 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining to pull to within five, but it proved to be the final bucket of the night.

North Callaway (12-11, 5-4) escaped with a 52-47 victory.

“Tonight it all came together and we all meshed really well,” North Callaway coach Morgan Beamer said. “We shot really well tonight. Defensively, we played super well, communicated, rebounded. We did everything we were supposed to do. If you do those little things, big things are going to happen.”

It was all North Callaway in the early going.

Allie Schlueter and Nicole Emmons each scored eight points in the first quarter, while Reyna Schmauch added a three to help the Ladybirds take a 19-8 advantage.

“We weren't energized from the tip, and that hurt us,” Mark Twain coach Alex Brandenburg said. “Tonight we came out slow and sluggish. North Callaway is a good defensive team and they can shoot the ball, and they did both those things real well in the first quarter, and I think we kind of let it get to us from the start.” 

After being held scoreless in the first quarter, Lathrom, who averages 27 points per game, made her first field goal in the second period. 

The three-time all-EMO selection managed just four points in the first half.

“They tried wearing McKenzie down from the start and played pretty physical basketball with us,” Brandenburg said. “They defended her well in every aspect of the game. You could tell they were prepared to stop her.” 

North Callaway took a 28-16 lead into halftime. 

Lathrom found her stroke out of the intermission, scoring seven straight points as part of a 9-0 run that pulled Mark Twain to within 33-27 with 2:37 left in the third.

Junior Paige Eddington dished out two assists for the Lady Tigers during the spree, while freshman Emma Ross capped the run with a layup. 

Ausfahl silenced Mark Twain's momentum with consecutive threes just 46 seconds apart late in the third to grow the visitors' lead back to double digits. 

Ausfahl scored all 15 of her points in the second half, tying Emmons as the Ladybirds leading scorer on the night. Following them was Schlueter with 14. 

“We tried to figure out a way to get her (Ausfahl) more touches in the third quarter, and luckily she was hitting tonight for us,” Beamer said. “She made huge shots.”

Brandenburg noted he was impressed by North Callaway's knockdown shooting and pointed to the end of the third quarter as a key difference in the game. 

“Every time we play them, they seem to just knock down everything that they see,” Brandenburg said of the Ladybirds. “If you leave them open, they're going hit them and kill you with them, but we just kind of lost track of those girls and they made us pay.”

After trailing 47-33 with 4:10 remaining, Mark Twain clawed back to within 48-44, outscoring North Callaway by seven in the final period.

But it wasn't enough as the Lady Tigers' bid for their 12th win of the season came up just short. 

Eddington scored eight points in the loss. Ross provided six points, while Mackenzie Ogle and Amber Ferry each added four a piece. 

“I was proud of the way our girls fought in the second half,” Brandenburg said. “That was an ugly game for us from the start, but we found a way to score and rebound and we finished the game strong. We were able to find a rhythm, but too little too late.”

Mark Twain plays at Montgomery County on Thursday.