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story.lead_photo.caption Bud Sullins/Special to the Herald-Leader Siloam Springs senior Morgan Vaughn lines up a free throw during last Wednesday's game against Alma.

Morgan Vaughn knows she has to produce on the scoreboard if the Siloam Springs girls basketball team is going to make a postseason run.

Vaughn -- a 5-foot-5 senior shooting guard for the Lady Panthers -- has always been a scorer, filling up the basket with 3-point shots and hard drives to the basket, ever since she was in junior high.

She didn't fully realize how important that was though until she began playing for the varsity as a sophomore during the 2015-16 season.

"I think as a sophomore it wasn't a big deal to be a leader on the team, and it kind of hit me mid-year during sophomore season," Vaughn said. "I just realized I have to do what I have to do to make my teammates better and make my team better."

For the Lady Panthers, that means putting the ball in the basket.

Vaughn has steadily upped her scoring marks in each of her three years for the Lady Panthers.

As a sophomore, she nearly averaged 10 points per game as the Lady Panthers earned a Class 6A state tournament bid and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

Vaughn increased her scoring to 14.7 points per game as a junior, including a career-high 37 points against Claremore, Okla., in a 67-62 overtime win. But the Lady Panthers struggled to a 5-24 record and lost several games by close margins and did not qualify for the 6A state tournament.

This season, Vaughn is up to nearly 16 points per game as the Lady Panthers head into the 6A-West Conference Tournament this Saturday in hopes of returning to the state tournament after missing out on last year's postseason.

"Morgan has been a consistent scorer and rebounder for us this year averaging almost 16 points per game and six rebounds," said Siloam Springs head coach Tim Rippy. "She is a player that has been through a lot of battles and close games the last three years, and we are going to need her experience for this postseason. She has played more minutes than anyone on our roster over the last three seasons and is capable of stepping up and playing great basketball. We need her to do exactly that."

Vaughn has scored in double figures in 20 of the Lady Panthers' 26 games heading into Tuesday's senior night tilt against Greenwood. Results were not available at presstime. She's scored 15 or more points per game in 16 of those games, including a season-high 33 points in an overtime loss to Pryor, Okla., on Dec. 4.

"We are at our best when she is involving teammates, attacking the basket and draining open outside shots," Rippy said. "When those three things come together, it makes our team better."

The 6A-West Conference Tournament is scheduled to begin Saturday. Brackets were not available at presstime, however the Lady Panthers (8-18) know they need to win at least one of the first two games of the tournament to clinch a berth in the 6A state tournament, which will be held Feb. 28-March 3 in West Memphis.

"This is the last chance for a postseason run for this group of seniors and I know they want to go as far as possible," Rippy said. "We are excited for postseason. Everyone's record goes back to 0-0. It's a fresh start with endless possibilities."

Vaughn said the sting of not making last year's state tournament gives the Lady Panthers plenty of motivation.

"I want to get there," she said. "It's really hitting me that the season's almost over and I have wanted (to go back to state) since sophomore year when we went to state because it really means a lot. It shows a lot to your community and your people and who your coaches are. You're not only representing your city or your town but your coaches and your team and how hard you've worked all season."

The season's end could also mark the end of competitive basketball for Vaughn.

She's been playing since she was in third grade and once had hopes of playing in college.

"I don't know if I'm going to play," Vaughn said. "I haven't really gotten any scholarships yet for basketball. It's been on my heart a lot lately that I'd take a scholarship if it was good enough, but I'm at the same point in life where I want to move on. I want to pursue a great career and not be caught up in just basketball."

And that's a tough one to potentially let go.

"I've loved basketball all my life," she said.

Sports on 02/14/2018

Print Headline: Lady Panthers lean on Vaughn

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