Now, THAT'S what the St. James High School girls' basketball team had in mind to bring to Columbia.
Coming off a disappointing defeat in semifinal action of the Missouri Class 3 State Tournament Semifinals on Thursday, the Lady Tigers roared back with a vengeance on Friday, smacking the North Technical Golden Eagles 65-44 at the Show-Me Showdown in the Mizzou Arena.
St. James brings to a close its outstanding 2012-13 campaign with a 26-5 final record. North Tech ends at 20-8.
It was the fifth trip to the state tournament Final Four in Lady Tiger history.
The Lady Tigers fell to Cameron 68-53 in Thursday's semifinal game, in large part due to being pounded on the backboards. St. James was again outrebounded by North Tech on Friday but St. James' pressure defense was at its hounding best, and that more than made up for the rebounding.
St. James rattled the Golden Eagles into 29 turnovers. The Lady Tigers outscored North Tech 28-0 in points off turnovers.
"We still didn't shoot well; we don't like these rims at Mizzou, I guess," said St. James head coach Terry Wells. "We wanted to get it to an up-down game and were able to do that."
"They're a great pressure team," North Tech head coach George Merritt said of St. James. "They had a great game scheme. He knew we only had eight kids and he sent two and three (reserves) in at a time at us. There is really no way to get prepared for pressure like that."
St. James never trailed on Friday, converting a number of turnovers into points early on.
Nursing a one-point lead, St. James went on a 8-0 run, and a layup by sophomore forward Alison McDowell off a steal by sophomore guard Alexis Uffmann at the 1:30 mark of the first period gave the Lady Tigers a 15-6 lead.
Senior forward M.J. Buschmann then picked up her second foul for St. James and went to the bench for the rest of the quarter, and the Golden Eagles responded with a 6-0 run in the final 1:01. A driving layup by junior guard Khalia Miller to end the first-quarter scoring cut St. James' lead to 15-12.
A tip-in to open the second quarter allowed the Golden Eagles to close to within one point. However, St. James answered with a 10-0 run – five points each by sophomore guard Ashlee Marlatt and Buschmann. Buschmann's driving layup at the 5:01 mark made it 25-14.
Uffmann's trey from the top of the key with :54 left gave St. james its largest lead of the half, 32-18. The Lady Tigers went into intermission up 32-20.
St. James scored 17 points off turnovers in the first half and attempted a whopping 19 three-pointers over the first two periods, hitting four.
Page 2 of 2 - It was all St. James in the second half.
STJ scored the first nine points of the half. Buschmann made a steal, was fouled and hit two free throws at the 5:15 mark of the third period and it was 41-20.
The Lady Tiger lead did not dip below 17 points the rest of the game.
"I thought it was important to go out on top," said Buschmann, the team's lone senior starter. "We really wanted to out out with a win."
"On the floor you could see and hear their guards were getting frustrated," Wells said of the Golden Eagles. "We didn't have a shoot-around (Friday). I decided we were just going to press and trap everywhere."
Buschmann had 21 points and seven rebounds to lead St. James while Marlatt hit 4-of-7 three-pointers to finish with 19 points while adding three steals and Uffmann had five steals and six assists.
Vivianna Carter, a 5-11 senior center, had 12 points, 14 rebounds and five steals to pace North Tech.
Now the Lady Tigers begin preparations for another run at the Final Four next season. Buschmann is the only player the squad loses from its regular rotation.
"It will lead into next year," Uffmann, the team's point guard and tri-captain, said of Friday's victory. "Next year we will work as hard as we can so that we will be in the championship game, not the third-place game."
"In the offseason I usually pick one or two things and focus on them," Wells said. "Rebounding and the weight room will probably be the things we work on."