A late-season injury triggered a sudden adjustment in Lincoln Prep’s playoff preparation. But for more than two weeks, the Tigers’ run had survived anyway, prompting its coach to boast of their ability to fight through hiccups.
But this was one too many.
After Lincoln Prep’s leading scorer departed with a first-quarter ankle injury, Incarnate Word Academy ran away with a 61-35 victory to capture the Missouri Class 4 girls state championship at JQH Arena in Springfield.
Lincoln Prep (22-5) tied its best finish in school history. Leading scorer Brionna Budgetts injured her left ankle while fighting for a rebound seven minutes into the game, when the Incarnate Word lead was just two.
A date with Incarnate Word (30-2) was already a tall task in the first place. It has a stranglehold on Class 4 and won its ninth championship in the past 13 years.
“Losing another one of your scorers tonight was like fighting the inevitable,” Lincoln Prep coach Jeff Atkins said. “It was a fight and a struggle. We took our punches. But one thing I told the girls is that this is the hand that we’re dealt, and we have to deal with it. I was just proud that we didn’t put our heads down and quit.”
Lincoln Prep entered the afternoon as a likely underdog, and Budgetts’ absence certainly didn’t aid the upset cause. She averaged more than 15 points per game during her senior season. The team had won its past three games without Amari Coon, the second leading scorer.
Budgetts’ final high school game lasted only seven minutes. She will attend Central Arkansas on a basketball scholarship in the fall.
“It was hard. I tried to get back out there,” Budgetts said. “I tried wrapping it. I tried putting the brace on. I tried tape. Nothing was working.”
For a quarter, Lincoln Prep’s defense pieced together a close scoreline. It trailed 23-11 at halftime. It had not allowed a playoff opponent to top 40 points until Saturday.
But the Tigers had few solutions offensively. Nobody remaining on the floor averaged in double figures this year. They managed only three points in the initial nine minutes after the injury as Incarnate Word pulled away. Chorus Davis led the team with 12. Incarnate Word senior forward Kiki Britzmann led all scorers with 19 points.
“We had a great season,” Atkins said. “We adjusted our schedule based on the talent we had. It was loaded and prepared us for battles like this one. Had we been full tilt, it would’ve been a good game.”