The dream came to an end on Wednesday, March 5 for the Lady Cardinals of Felicity-Franklin as the Fayetteville-Perry Lady Rockets shook them out of their regional tournament run, dispatching of Felicity 64-46 in the Division IV regional semifinal at Tippecanoe.
“Defensively, we definitely didn’t shut them down like we wanted to,” said Lady Cardinals’ head coach Kerry Stamper, who was making her return to the regional semifinals for the first time since playing for Felicity 20 years ago. “We certainly didn’t box out as well as we should have. Offensively, I think some players that normally haven’t stepped up in the past did step up for us, but it was just not enough.”
Well aware of the task at hand heading into the game, Stamper and her team knew that both sides of the ball would have to play their best games of the year to topple the previously undefeated Lady Rockets.
A spurt in the middle of the second quarter brought Felicity back to level pegging with Fayetteville, but the energy exerted to make that comeback ultimately sapped the Lady Cardinals and they were unable to hang with the Lady Rockets heading into the half as Fayetteville would spring to a 35-23 halftime lead.
The height disadvantage that the Lady Cardinals were able to overcome in the district final against Russia wasn’t to be duplicated in the next round as Felicity’s tallest player equaled the shortest on Fayetteville’s roster. Even so, junior Paige Kessen, one of the undersized Lady Cardinals tasked with banging down low, scored a team-high 15 points.
The 12-point halftime deficit ballooned in the second half and Felicity, a team that relied largely on their defense to keep them within reach of opponents throughout the season, didn’t have the offensive firepower to make another run.
When it was all said and done, sophomore Ashley Moore scored 13 points and the senior contingent of Brooke Corbin (eight points), Kelsey Arkenau (four points), Heather Collins (four points) and Serena Spaulding (two points) were responsible for the other 18 points.
“Definitely, (their lasting impact) is to never quit,” Stamper said of her outgoing senior class. “They’ve worked so hard since their freshman year and every year, they’ve gotten better. They’ve shown everyone, including their fellow teammates, that nothing is out of reach if you’re willing to put forth the hard work. That will definitely be what they leave with me and hopefully with the team.”
While those four will don red graduation gowns this spring, a core of up-and-comers inherit the Felicity-Franklin program at its zenith in the past few decades. In fact, the top-three leading scorers will return in Moore, Kessen and Brittany Drake.
Those three, along with their classmates, will have heightened expectations and invaluable experience under their belts when they take the floor again in seven months.
“I expect those three to be the leaders next year and to push the underclassmen to get to the point that they have already gotten to and beyond,” Stamper said. “I’m definitely looking for them to step up and push everyone to play at their highest level. Those three are definitely capable of that.”
The Lady Cardinals ended their 2013-14 campaign on an 18-6 mark overall, 8-2 in the Southern Buckeye Conference and with a district title sitting in the school’s trophy case.
The pride was restored to Felicity-Franklin High School this season and it will be up to those suiting up in front of the fighting cardinal on the gym wall next winter to continue the reestablished tradition.