The undersized St. James High School girls' basketball team has been accustomed to being outrebounded this season.
The Lady Tigers have generally been able to overcome by outplaying their opposition in other areas.
However, when you're outrebounded by a whopping 30 boards...you had better be close to flawless in all other areas.
St. James wasn't on Thursday afternoon and had its dreams of a state championship dashed.
The larger Cameron Lady Dragons mauled St. James on the boards on Thursday. That, coupled with an off-shooting night by the Lady Tigers, allowed Cameron to pull away for a 68-53 victory in Missouri Class 3 State Tournament Semifinal action at the Mizzou Arena.
In the other Class 3 girls' semifinal game on Thursday Lutheran St. Peters held off St. Louis North Tech 65-61 to reach the title game. Lutheran St. Peters is to meet Cameron at 1:20 p.m. Saturday at the Mizzou Arena for the Class 3 championship.
Cameron never trailed against St. James, although the Lady Tigers were in contention late. St. James trailed by four points with two minutes remaining, but was outscored by the Lady Dragons 13-2 in the final 2:00.
"You can't shoot (30) percent," said St. James head coach Terry Wells. "We knew we would probably be outrebounded. But we usually win the turnover battle, which we did again (Thursday). But we didn't turn them into points."
St. James was usually limited to one shot on the offensive end. Meanwhile, on their offensive end the Lady Dragons got a slew of second- or third-opportunities.
In all Cameron outrebounded St. James 49-19.
"We thought we could outrebound them," said Cameron head coach Matt Wenck. "We had a rebounding advantage and we wanted to crash the boards."
St. James, as usual, won the turnover battle, forcing 22 while committing just seven itself. However, the transition baskets that the Lady Tigers depend on were rare on Thursday. And St. James shot just 31 percent from the field, including a 4-for-20 performance from three-point range.
Cameron 5-9 junior forward Ashli Lykins proved to be the difference in the game, particularly in the first quarter.
Lykins fired in a game-high 29 points on 10-for-16 shooting from the field, including 22 first-half points as the Lady Dragons compiled a double-figure halftime lead.
Three minutes in it was a one-point game. Cameron then went on a 8-1 run, and a pair of free throws by 5-10 sophomore forward Taylor Hamilton with 2:42 left in the first period gave the Lady Dragons an eight-point edge. However, St. James sophomore guard Ashlee Marlatt netted a three-pointer off the left baseline with :48 left to cut St. James' deficit to 12-8 entering the second period.
St. James closed to within one point at the 5:02 mark of the second period when junior guard Emma Rogers hit 1-of-2 free throws. It was a three-point Cameron lead with 2:30 remaining in the first half.
Page 2 of 2 - However, the Lady Dragons (20-11) reeled off eight unanswered points over the final 2:29 of the half – all coming from Lykins. With three seconds remaining in the half Lykins was fouled, after which Wells was whistled for a technical foul. Lykins sank 3-of-4 free throws to give Cameron a 34-23 edge at intermission.
The Lady Dragons' 5-9 junior forward Maizey Hughes opened the second half with a put-back basket after the third Cameron offensive rebound of the possession.
St. James then roared back with 10 unanswered points. And a put-back by senior forward M.J. Buschmann with 2:47 remaining in the quarter cut the Cameron edge to three, 36-33.
Yet another Lady Dragon run in the final two minutes of the period again padded the lead. And 5-5 sophomore guard Melia Richardson banked in a long three-point attempt at the buzzer to make it 46-37 heading into the fourth period.
Richardson opened the fourth quarter by scoring a layup following a St. James turnover to make it an 11-point Lady Tiger deficit.
Six straight St. James points followed, and a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Alexis Uffmann at the 6:25 mark cut the lead back to five, 48-43.
The two squads traded baskets or free throws over the next four minutes. Buschmann scored six straight Lady Tiger points on two layups and two free throws. Her free throws at the 2:00 mark brought St. James to within four, 55-51.
However, the momentum quickly turned back to Cameron when the Lady Dragons sprinted the distance on the ensuing inbounds play, with Lykins sinking a layup and being fouled. She added the free throw and all of a sudden it was a seven-point Dragon advantage.
Lykins' three-point play triggered a 13-2 Cameron run to ice things.
"She came out in the first half and had something to prove," Wells said of Lykins.
"When Ashli gets on fire, we know to get her the ball," said Richardson, Cameron's point guard.
Buschmann led St. James with 17 points while freshman guard Shauna Rinehart added 13 points and Uffmann tallied 10 points and five steals before fouling out.
Richardson added 19 points while Hamilton and Lykins had 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively.