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Wakeland comes up big to lead Grandview past rival Herculaneum

Wakeland comes up big to lead Grandview past rival Herculaneum

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HERCULANEUM — Grandview High freshman Anna Belle Wakeland has spent much of this season absorbing numerous elbows and shoves from teammates during practice.

The 6-foot-2 center learned a lot from that tough love.

"We'd beat on her every chance we get," explained senior guard Sarra Faust.

On Tuesday, Wakeland dished out some punishment of her own.

The once-timid 15-year-old turned in a career-defining performance with 18 points, eight rebounds and six blocks to lead the Eagles to a 68-55 win over rival Herculaneum in the semifinal round of the Class 3 District 3 Tournament at Robinson Gymnasium.

Box: Grandview 68, Herculaneum 55

Grandview (17-7) will play for its first district title when it faces Steelville (22-5) in the championship contest at 6 p.m. on Friday.

Wakeland was a one-girl wrecking crew at both ends of the court. In a matter of a few weeks, she has become the aggressive, confident driving force that coach Steve Noblitt felt she could become all along.

"She's finally figuring it out," Noblitt said. "And her up side is way up there."

Wakeland credits her teammates for bringing her out of her shell.

"When I'm posting up in practice they're always pushing me," Wakeland said. "I've played scared all season. Now, thanks to my teammates, I really feel like I'm coming together."

Wakeland set a career-high with her six blocks. Her 18 points ties a career high. She also scored 18 in a win over Hillsboro last week.

But her latest performance came in the biggest game of the season.

The two Jefferson County rivals split a pair of one-point games during the regular season and the rubber match was expected to be a nail-biter

It wasn't, thanks in part to Wakeland, who came into the contest averaging just six points per contest.

"We told her all season that there was going to be a time where we were going to need her to step up and play big," said Faust, who added 13 points. "Tonight was it."

The Eagles used an 11-0 run in the opening quarter to take the lead for good. They pushed the advantage to 12 late in the first half and held off a fourth-quarter charge from the Blackcats (19-8).

Sophomore Natalee Moore scored 10 points off the bench for the Eagles. Senior Isabelle Kuczka chipped in with nine points.

"We've been fired up for this game for a long time," Faust said.

It certainly showed early. Four different players scored during the 11-point blitz that put Grandview in control 15-7. Wakeland capped off the salvo with a short baseline jumper. Hailey Harlow added a basket and free throw. Faust began the run with a steal and layup.

Herculaneum battled back to within 39-37 on a driving layup by Ashley Croom with 7 minutes, 26 seconds left.

But the Eagles answered by reeling off the next six points to regain control. Moore, Wakeland and Harlow triggered the run.

Wakeland hit three baskets in the final 6:32 and recorded two blocks in the closing period. She also dished out a nifty pass to Faust for a layup that pumped the lead to 53-43.

Faust and Wakeland are looking forward to possibly making history on Friday with the program's first district crown. The Eagles dropped a 47-40 decision to Steelville on Dec. 3. They led by eight points with five minutes left according to Noblitt.

"We're ready for them," Faust said.

Herculaneum missed 11 of 16 free throws in the first half which contributed to its slow start. Paige Fowler led the way with 14 points.

"We didn't play our best basketball," Herculaneum coach Riley Blair said. "You've got to be on your game at this time of the year and we weren't."

The Blackcats lost four seniors, who combined to go 78-23 over the previous four seasons.

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