While the Missouri and Illinois mens college basketball teams were playing their annual “Braggin’ Rights” game in St. Louis, the Columbia and Waterloo girls hoops teams competed in a rivalry showdown of their own in the Candy Cane Classic final at Gibault on Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldogs, who dropped an earlier contest against their cross-county rivals to the north at Columbia, put up quite a fight but the Eagles proved too powerful at the end in a 46-36 victory.
Both teams came out strong during a back-and-forth start to the contest. Regan Rippelmeyer drilled three three-pointers in the first quarter to propel the Eagles to a 19-12 lead heading into the second quarter. Kat Finnerty and Mia Reed provided a strong inside presence for Waterloo, grabbing rebounds on offense and defense to keep their team in the game.
Columbia’s Kalli Farmer, who was named tourney MVP, hit two quick catch-and-shoot attempts in the middle of the second quarter to give her team some breathing room at 25-18, but the Bulldogs scored the final four points of the quarter to make it 25-22 at the half. Farmer finished with 10 points on the game.
Finnerty scored eight points in the first half and finished with 14 for the game to lead all scorers.
The teams traded baskets to start the third quarter, and Waterloo’s Reed and Taylor Augustine hit key buckets to keep it close. Finnerty’s bucket at 3:30 of the third quarter actually gave Waterloo the lead at 32-31.
But the Eagles clamped down on defense from there, forcing turnovers and converting them into points on the other end.
“Early on, Waterloo was doing a good job of out-rebounding us and getting second and third chances to score,” Columbia head coach Scott Germain told the Republic-Times. “In the second half, we rebounded better and didn’t give them opportunities for easy put-backs.”
The play of Taryn Pena on defense and Katie Barton on offense provided a spark in the third and fourth quarters for the Eagles, Germain said. A Barton bucket early in the fourth gave Columbia a 40-32 edge.
“Taryn pressured the ball on defense… and Katie’s been out the the last couple weeks with an injury, so we didn’t play her until the second half. When she was out there, she didn’t give me any reason to take her off,” Germain said.
The Eagles were able to control the clock from there and take the tourney championship. With the win, Columbia improves to 9-3 on the season.
“Going in, I thought this tournament was wide open with the quality teams in it,” Germain said. “We were happy to get out of here with the ‘W.'”