SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — In what turned out to be a dogfight between two teams named the Bulldogs, it was Carl Junction that hung on to advance with a 37-33 grind-it-out win against Notre Dame-Cape Girardeau on Friday night at Missouri State University’s Hammons Student Center in Springfield.

CJ meets Lutheran St. Charles Saturday at 8 p.m. for the Class 5 state championship in the 2023 Show-Me Showdown.

It took nearly five minutes for either team to score as both teams did an effective job of denying entry into the paint.

It wasn’t until the 3:17 mark of the first quarter that a Kylie Scott jumper fell through for CJ and the red-and-white Bulldogs held the game’s first lead at 2-0. Notre Dame’s Nevaeh Cortez-Lucious knocked down a trey and the blue-and-white dogs of Cape Girardeau were up 3-2.

Carl Junction (30-1) took back the lead seconds later with a bucket in the paint by Dezi Williams. Notre Dame (23-6) responded with a bucket of its own to make it 5-4 with 2:10 left. A Destiny Buerge steal and score put Carl Junction up for good at 6-5 with 1:39 left.

Another bucket by Buerge and Williams gave Carl Junction a 10-5 lead after the first period.

Klohe Burk opened the second quarter with a corner three to put CJ up 13-5, but Cape answered with back-to-back treys of its own by Brie Rubel and Anna Garner and Notre Dame was within a bucket, at 13-11 with 6:00 left in the half.

Another Williams score and a free throw by Williams pushed the lead back to five at 16-11.Scott scored the last seven points of the half, off a spin move, a bucket underneath and a 3-pointer and the Carl Junction squad went into halftime with a 23-18 edge.

Carl Junction outscored ND 11-7 in the third stanza, which included a second trey by Scott. CJ went into the final frame with a 34-25 advantage.

Cortez-Lucious pulled ND closer with a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter and got within six at 34-28. Scott upped CJ’s lead to eight with a putback after a missed free throw at 5:23 with CJ leading 37-29. Cape Girardeau managed to claw to within four at 37-33 with 2:50 left, but Burk forced a tie-up with 50-seconds left.

With the possession arrow in CJ’s favor, Carl Junction managed to hold ND at bay the rest of the game to advance to the final.

“That was a really good, physical team,” head coach Brad Shorter said. “They play hard and we knew they would. Notre Dame is an excellent basketball squad and they have been for quite some time. The coach has done a terrific job with that group. They bothered us all night long. They’re good with the basketball and they do some really nice things.”

Scott claimed game-high honors with 14 points and logged a double-double with 12 boards. The Carl Junction junior also had 6 blocks. Williams also logged a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Buerge recorded five steals while scoring seven.

Shorter talked about Scott after the win: “She does a terrific job inside and she has all year long,” he said. “She did a really good job of just going straight up and contesting shots and getting quite a few blocks.”

Cortez-Lucious led ND with 12 points; Brie Rubel added 9.

“I didn’t think our team played particularly well, but a lot of that is due particularly to what they did to us. We didn’t play well but we played tough and that’s what we needed to do to get to the state championship game,” Shorter said.

Carl Junction out-rebounded ND 33-27.

Senior Klohe Burk talked about the physicality of ND and her mindset going into the game.

“Our mindset was to match their physicality,” Burk said. “Try to match them and be just as aggressive as they are.”

The victory extended Carl Junction’s win streak to 25 games; their only loss of the season was to eventual Oklahoma Class 5 champs Sapulpa.

Senior Hali Shorter talked about getting to play one last game with her dad, Coach Shorter.

“Honestly, I try not to think about it,” Hali said. “I’m just going to go out there and play basketball and try not to think about it too much.”

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