Schools of Thought: Lady Toppers steady in WAC

You never know how a team that has gone undefeated for nearly half the season is going to react to its first defeat.

Sometimes it’s a wake-up call to a team that had been cruising as it reminds them of their vulnerability, or it can sometimes send a team into a tailspin.

With all the possibilities, I was naturally curious last Wednesday when I went to Mayfield Jr./Sr. High School for the girls basketball game between Fort Plain and the host Lady Panthers. The Lady Hilltoppers had won their first nine games before losing their first game of the season, 59-39, to Middleburgh.

Then the first quarter of the game at Mayfield must have been a red flag as the Lady Panthers outscored them 16-1 in the first quarter, holding Fort Plain to a single free throw. You watch a team get off to a start like that and you wonder if the Western Athletic Conference North leaders were going to have a long night.

But championship teams aren’t forged by how dominant they are during the regular season. I’ve seen plenty of teams run roughshod over their competition during the regular season only to flame out in the postseason. Sometimes a little adversity is needed along the way.

Maybe losing to Middleburgh two nights earlier and falling behind quickly Wednesday proved to be a wakeup call for Fort Plain because they got their act together in the game’s final three quarters and wound up posting 47-32 victory, winning by the margin they had fallen behind in the first quarter.

That’s quite a turnaround.

Fort Plain coach Phil Karker said he had never been involved in a basketball game where the visiting team had fallen behind by so much and still come back and won the game. I, personally, have seen a lot of basketball games and am not sure if I’ve seen it before either.

Slow first quarters must have been the theme of the week for the Lady Hilltoppers as they fell behind by 10 points at home Friday night against Galway before coming back for a 63-46 victory. This time it was the defense that let them down in the first quarter as they allowed Galway to put 24 points up on them.

It was the same defense that held the Golden Eagles to 22 points the rest of the way for them to mount their comeback.

The last two games have shown me something about the Lady Hilltoppers.

They can handle adversity as they bounced back from the loss against Middleburgh and two difficult first quarters in their next two games to post victories.

They also haven’t been entirely healthy as the team has been battling illness most of the season, according to Karker. Given that, look at what the Lady Hilltoppers have accomplished this season. They are 11-1, unbeaten in their Western Athletic Conference North and hold a two-game lead over their next-door neighbors, the Canajoharie Lady Cougars with four games remaining.

By the way, those two teams play each other Wednesday.

With a win, Fort Plain is on its way to another WAC North title and will be in good shape going into the WAC Cup games and sectionals.

Then we’ll see if anyone can stop these seven players.

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