By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
SENECA, Mo. —
Shelbey Thomlinson’s 3-point shooting was big.
The defense she and her East Newton teammates clamped down on Mount Vernon was even bigger.
East Newton held Mount Vernon to two fourth-quarter points and Thomlinson’s trey with 2:35 remaining — her fifth of the game — put the Patriots ahead for good in a 36-33 win over the Mountaineers on Friday night in the semifinals of the Class 3 District 12 tournament.
The win moves the Patriots into today’s 6 p.m. district championship against Ash Grove — a 67-43 winner over Southwest — and avenges their 40-34 overtime loss to Mount Vernon in Big 8 Conference play.
“We didn’t want to quit. We wanted to keep pushing on,” said Thomlinson, who finished with a game-high 19 points. “We knew it would come down to whoever wanted it more and we wanted it more.”
Mount Vernon, which had 18 points and 17 turnovers at halftime, used a 7-1 run over the final 4:30 of the third quarter to take a 31-27 lead.
But Thomlinson hit two foul shots after being fouled on a 3-point attempt and Courtney Brewster hit a layup to tie the game at 31 with 6:27 remaining.
Tamaiya Henderson, a Pittsburg State commit, put the Mountaineers back up 33-31 with 3:40 left, but just over a minute later Thomlinson caught a reversal pass on the right wing and sank a trey to give the Patriots a 34-33 lead.
“It’s taken her a while to get that confidence,” East Newton coach Marty Rinehart said of Thomlinson, who finished 5-for-8 from behind the arc. “We keep reminding her that we’ve never told her that she shoots too much. Tonight she looked like a senior who didn’t want to stop playing. She stepped up and led us.”
Whitney Thomlinson added a pair of free throws with 36 seconds remaining to push the lead to three and East Newton’s defense didn’t give the Mountaineers a good look at a game-trying 3-point attempt.
The Patriots forced Mount Vernon into 24 turnovers on the night.
“That’s who we want to be. We want to be a defensive program,” Rinehart said. “I thought the girls did an excellent job of executing our game plan. They have some terrific scorers and we knew we couldn’t stop them, but we hoped to contain them. And I thought we did a good job of that.”
Whitney Thomlinson added seven points for East Newton.
Audrey LaSalle led Mount Vernon with nine while Henderson and Mackenzie Farmer each scored eight.
Ash Grove 67, Southwest 43
Top-seeded Ash Grove got to the foul line early and often. And the Pirates were lethal when they got there.
The Pirates hit 29 of their 34 free throws — including 15 of 18 in the fourth quarter — in pulling away with the win.
“You never know how a team is going to shoot and tonight was our night from the line,” Ash Grove coach Brent Milleson said. “Most high school teams don’t typically shoot that well from the line, but I was happy for our kids. They stepped up with confidence and shot well.”
Lakin Simmerman, who spent most of the year sidelined with a stress fracture in her right foot, had a stellar shooting night. The 6-foot junior hit 6 of 8 shots from the field and was 7-for-8 from the foul line and scored a game-high 19 points.
“It felt great,” said Simmerman, who returned to action a couple weeks ago. “I was getting some good kicks down low and some good reads.”
Madi Johnson — 7-for-8 from the foul line — added 16 for the Pirates while Abby Arico — 7-for-7 from the charity stripe — had 14.
“We’ve had balanced scoring throughout the year,” Milleson said. “We’ve been so injury-riddled that we’ve had to have different kids step up on different nights. That’s been one of the nicest things about our team. We’ve been resilient.”
Jaime Shrum led Southwest with 12 points while Montana Hendrix added 10.