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story.lead_photo.caption Bud Sullins/Special to the Herald-Leader Siloam Springs senior Hadlee Hollenback drives to basket during the Lady Panthers' game against Stilwell, Okla., on Dec. 15. Hollenback and Siloam Springs host Claremore, Okla., at 7 p.m. Thursday in the opening round of the Siloam Springs Holiday Classic.

The Siloam Springs girls basketball program only had five wins total last season in a tough year filled with close losses.

But one of those wins in particular was a high point for sure for the Lady Panthers.

Siloam Springs rallied from a 17-point deficit to defeat Claremore, Okla., 67-62 in overtime in the third place game of the 2016 Siloam Springs Holiday Classic, led by a 37-point outburst by Morgan Vaughn.

"That might have been our best win last year against a good quality team," said Siloam Springs coach Tim Rippy. "They were talented and well coached. At that time of the year we were needing a win. We kind of just left it all on the court."

The Lady Panthers and Lady Zebras will meet again to open the 2017 Siloam Springs Holiday Classic at 7 p.m. Thursday inside the Panther Activity Center.

"This will be the third time in the five years that we've played them in the tournament," Rippy said. "Both of the first two were really good ballgames going back to Mayse Pippin's senior year (in 2014-15)."

The Lady Panthers defeated Claremore 49-41 in a winner's bracket semifinal game in 2014-15 on their way to a tournament championship.

"It was a game that went down to the fourth quarter," Rippy said. "We got them by eight, but I remember it being a really good ballgame. We had to make plays at the end to win the ballgame. Of course last year we trailed a lot in that ballgame. It was back and forth in the second half. We had a really good performance. I remember Morgan Vaughn played really well down the stretch. Our whole team made big shots down the stretch. We had several key defensive stops. We made free throws at the end to get the close win."

The Lady Panthers and Lady Zebras will be the main event game on the opening day Thursday, which includes three other girls games beginning with Rogers and Prairie Grove at 10 a.m. The winner-loser of that game will meet the winner-loser of the Siloam Springs-Claremore game.

"Whether or not we win or lose in the first round, we feel like we should get three quality games," Rippy said. "If we win we get the winner of Rogers-Prairie Grove, if we lose we get the loser. Both are good programs that are well coached, and so that will be a good game. You would expect to get a pretty good team in the third round as well."

Other games on Tuesday include Gentry versus Coweta, Okla., at 1 p.m. and Shiloh Christian versus Springdale at 4 p.m.

"Pretty good tournament -- some pretty good athletes in the tournament," Rippy said. "You've got the kid from Springdale (Marquesha Davis) that's obviously a Division I recruit. She's having a really good year. They'll be fun to watch. The teams from Oklahoma always bring some unknowns into the tournament. We don't have similar competition so it's hard to tell."

It will be nearly two weeks since Siloam Springs (4-7) has last played -- the Lady Panthers defeated Stilwell, Okla., 56-39, on homecoming on Dec. 15.

The team returned to practice on Tuesday after taking the last several days off for the Christmas holiday. They'll practice again today before taking on the Lady Zebras.

"We basically will be trying to get back into shape and get their hands on a basketball and get refamiliarized and pick it up and go," Rippy said. "You kind of have to play your way back into shape, unfortunately."

In the win against Stilwell, Vaughn scored a game-high 28 points. Since being held to 2 points in a 42-35 loss to Mountain Home on Nov. 17, Vaughn has scored in double figures in her last nine games and is averaging 19.5 points per game in that stretch.

"She's been a consistent scorer for us," Rippy said. "She's doing it in different ways in each of the games. Some nights it's from the 3-point line. Some nights it's taking the ball to the basket. We've had a mixture of both in several of the games. She's also been getting to the free-throw line quite a bit so she's become very difficult for teams to stop."

Through 11 games, Vaughn leads the Lady Panthers in scoring at 17.3 points per game.

"In our different offenses, it provides her a variety of ways to get looks," Rippy said. "She does some of it coming off screens. She does some of it with the ball in her hands making reads. She does some of it on her own in transition. You know she's definitely an important offensive weapon for us."

Junior point guard Chloe Price is averaging 8.5 points per game, but she's been limited to just 14 points total in her last three games.

"We're trying to get her going again," Rippy said. "I expect her to turn back in the right direction and become a little bit more aggressive. I think with her it's just confidence. We need to get her confidence up because she can really shoot the basketball and she can finish in transition really well and sees the floor well. She's a catalyst for our offense."

Senior post Hadlee Hollenback is averaging 5.9 points per game but is up to 8.3 points over her last three games.

"The thing that she's doing really well for us is rebounding," Rippy said. "Defensive and offensive rebounds, she leads the team. She's had several games with high rebound numbers. She usually leads the charge. She's playing really hard. I'd like to see her score a little bit more in the post for us. Most of her points right now are probably coming off offensive putbacks, which there's nothing wrong with that. She needs to find a way to get four or five buckets a game and get to the line a couple of times. If she can do that it will be a productive spot for us."

Senior guard Kenlie Noel has given the Lady Panthers a spark at times, averaging nearly 5 points per game.

"(Noel) had a big basket early the other night in the fourth quarter," Rippy said. "She provides some things that nobody else does, especially on the offensive side. She has a knack for making big baskets at critical times. She goes about her business quietly, but she's an important factor."

The Lady Panthers are happy to have sophomore post Shelby Johnson back and hope she's able to remain healthy. Johnson has missed several games with an ankle injury.

Junior guard Hailey Dorsey also has been out the last eight games with an ankle sprain

"She's made tremendous progress over the last seven days (before Christmas break)," Rippy said. "We're kind of hoping she can make that much progress again over having some time off over the holiday that we could see her back earlier in January rather than later. We really need her for our stretch run."

Rippy said the Lady Panthers will be without guard Brooklyn Buckminster for the holiday tournament because of a pre-scheduled family vacation.

"We're going to have to have people step up, especially on defense," Rippy said. "She's one of our defensive leaders. We're going to have to rely on some other kids. Maybe they'll step up and take advantage of the opportunity."

Sports on 12/27/2017

Print Headline: SSHS-Claremore girls set for rematch

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