Miller Lady Cardinals Win for Ben at Stockton Tournament

Skylan Akins

The Miller team poses with the championship trophy after the 41-33 win over ELDO. In the front row are Kaylee Thom and Alexis Bailey; middle row, coach Ryan White, Kendall Neely, Haylie Schnake, Kaylee Helton, Claudia Hadlock, Payten Richardson, Alyssa Hill, Hailey Mart and coach Lindsey Hyde; back row, coach Sean Price.

Miller senior Payten Richardson drives baseline past an ELDO defender late in the first half of the championship game of the Stockton Tournament. Richardson had a fantastic tournament being one of three Lady Cardinals named to the SWMO Basketball All-Tournament team, along with senior Claudia Hadlock (MVP) and junior Alyssa Hill. (Photos by Skylan Akins)

The Miller community, including the girls’ basketball team, was in mourning after high schooler Ben Holder passed away unexpectedly Friday. The day before the Lady Cardinals were set for a high stakes rematch against the second best team in Class 3 El Dorado Springs in the Stockton Tournament championship.
“We talked to the girls before and after the game that life is bigger than this. We need to take advantage of every opportunity we have because it can be our last. The girls rallied around that and our community and came out and played good basketball,” Miller coach Sean Price said.
The Lady Cardinals reached the championship game after COVID forced their first round opponent, New Covenant Academy, to forfeit. They responded with with a 52-24 win over host Stockton in the semifinals before setting up a rematch with ELDO.
The two teams had shared a court together just 11 days prior in El Dorado Springs that ultimately saw the Lady Bulldogs emerge victorious 48-34. Miller star Kaylee Helton was sidelined with an ankle injury for that one but hoped to be back for last week’s tournament. Unfortunately, a setback in her recovery saw her on the bench once again.

The Lady Cardinals jumped ahead early 7-3 behind strong play from senior duo Payten Richardson and Claudia Hadlock. The Lady Bulldogs battled back and ended the opening quarter tied at 9. Miller’s defense was fantastic in the second quarter, as they once again only allowed single digit points. But a cold shooting quarter gave ELDO a 17-13 advantage at half. The third quarter was when the Lady Cardinals started to come alive as threes from juniors Hailey Mart and Alyssa Hill led a charge as Miller completed the comeback and took a 26-24 lead going into the final quarter. Hill was huge down the stretch, as anytime ELDO attempted to go on a run, she would hit another timely shot to shut down the Lady Bulldog run. Not to be denied this contest, the Miller Lady Cardinals took the Stockton Tournament championship, 41-33.

WFB from the crowd
Chants of “WFB” and “Win for Ben” rained from the Miller faithful in what was a beautiful reminder that sometimes, basketball is just a secondary story. These Lady Cardinals have dealt with adversity and sky high expectations dating back to volleyball season where it was championship or bust. They overcame that obstacle through tremendous grit and will power, much as they have with every challenge this basketball season.

No easy task so far
As a Class 2 team, the Lady Cardinals only played three other teams Class 2 or smaller. That included a 59-6 win over Fair Play, 32-19 win over Walnut Grove, and a narrow 31-27 defeat to the #2 team in the class, Blue Eye, on the road. Up to this point, 13 of their 16 games have been against teams who are state ranked, receiving votes, or Class 5 or 6 in the state. In the case of Republic, they fit two of the three categories.
However, despite the brutal schedule, Miller sits at 13-3 for the season heading into SWC play. They opened conference play Tuesday on the road at Pierce City. Their road trip will continue against another one of the best in Class 3, Diamond, Friday at 6 p.m.

Miller boys
The Cardinals had a solid week, as well, picking up a pair of wins against Wheaton and Fordland. Their record moves to 4-8 on the year, as they will play the same schedule as the girls this week traveling to Pierce City, Tuesday, and Diamond on Friday.


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