Waynesville puts up a fight in battle of Lady Tigers.
If the St. James High School girls' basketball team thought its season-opener against Waynesville was going to resemble last year, the state-ranked Lady Tigers were very much mistaken.
A year ago St. James opened its road to the Final Four by pounding Waynesville 74-42.
STJ again opened with a victory on Tuesday. But this time St. James had to work for it.
Getting huge games from their inside duo of 6-2 sophomore forward Kallie Bildner and 5-10 senior forward Hannah Bland, Waynesville simply would not go away on Tuesday, as St. James had to sweat out a 61-55 non-league victory in a battle of Lady Tigers.
Waynesville head coach Brittany Matlock knew exactly what was coming from St. James, which finished 26-5 and placed third in the Missouri Class 3 State Tournament last season and has been ranked No. 3 in the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association's Class 3 preseason poll this campaign.
And St. James didn't disappoint, as its hounding defensive pressure caused more than 30 Waynesville turnovers.
However, when Waynesville got the ball inside it made St. James pay with its superior height.
"We expected the pressure," Matlock said. "But with 30 turnovers and still being in the game, we were very fortunate."
St. James head coach Terry Wells felt his squad may have been thinking a little too much of last year's easy season-opening victory.
"We did not show up with the right attitude," Wells said. "Waynesville is much improved. They had a good game plan and played very well. That being said, we've got to defend better."
There were six lead changes over the first half.
A layup by Bildner off an assist by Bland at the 6:56 mark of the second period gave Waynesville an 18-17 lead.
St. James made three consecutive steals on its way to a 10-1 run. And a three-pointer by junior guard Ashlee Marlatt with 4:52 remaining in the half gave STJ the largest lead by either team before intermission, 27-19.
Marlatt hit another three-pointer - the fifth of the half for St. James - to give STJ a 32-25 edge with 2:21 left. However, Bildner ended the half with back-to-back field goals, cutting the Waynesville deficit to 32-29 at intermission.
Powered by three-pointers and its ability to force turnovers St. James never trailed in the second half, but couldn't put WHS away either.
A free throw by 5-10 freshman forward Devin Fuhring gave St. James its largest lead of the game, 53-42, with 5:20 remaining.
Waynesville responded with a 6-0 run. And Bildner's two free throws at the 3:22 mark cut the St. James lead to five.
However, St. James wrapped up the win at the free throw line, hitting 6-of-8 over the final 3:07.
Four St. James players scored in double figures, as junior guard Alexis Uffmann had 17 points, six assists and four steals; Marlatt 15 points; Fuhring 12 points and nine rebounds, and sophomore guard Shauna Rinehart 11 points. St. James connected on nine 3-pointers.
Bildner finished with game-high totals of 28 points and 14 rebounds while Bland had 17 points and eight assists and 5-10 senior forward Jordan Laughlin added seven boards.
"We still won the turnover margin handily," Wells said. "And in the second half we did a better job of taking care of the ball. (But) defensively we didn't do a very good job of adjusting."
"We've got to take care of the basketball and do a better job of matching up in transition defense," Matlock said. "We've come so far since (last week's) jamboree. The effort was very good; we'll continue to grow on that.
"I'm proud (Bildner and Bland) are getting more comfortable away from the basket. As we play together they will get more confident."
In the junior varsity game St. James held on to win 46-40.
Waynesville led the jayvee contest 12-11 after one period and took a 23-19 halftime lead. St. James trailed 34-33 after three periods and then outscored Waynesville 13-6 in the fourth quarter to come from behind.
Sophomore guard Leslie Perona fired in 15 points and sophomore forward Hannah Keeney added 14 for St. James. Freshman Bree Stoddard had 10 points to lead the Waynesville jayvees.
Waynesville will host Columbia Hickman in another non-league game on Monday, starting with jayvee action at 6 p.m.
St. James will host the third annual Community Bank of St. James Shootout Saturday at St. James High school. All-day admission is $3 for adults and $2 for students.
The shootout will include five prep girls' basketball games, with St. James playing Ursuline Academy at 5 p.m.
Here is the Shootout schedule (last year's record in parenthesis):
11 a.m. - Cuba (16-11) vs. Columbia Battle (new program).
12:30 p.m. - Jefferson City (3-24) vs. North County (21-7).
2 p.m. - Lutheran South (14-13) vs. Owensville (13-13).
3:30 p.m. - Pacific (21-6) vs. Park Hills (19-7).
5 p.m. - St. James (26-5) vs. Ursuline Academy (15-7).
St. James (61): Uffmann 5-3-17, Fuhring 5-2-12, Rogers 0-2-2, Guese 1-0-2, Marlatt 4-4-15, Rinehart 3-2-11, Diestelkamp 1-0-2, Totals 19-13-61.
Waynesville (55): Bildner 12-4-28, Herrmann 1-1-3, stoddard 1-0-2, Simmons 0-2-2, Kizzee 1-1-3, Bland 8-1-17, Totals 23-9-55.
St. James (46): Losing 0-1-1, L. Perona 4-5-15, Keeney 7-0-14, Fane 1-7-9, Wisdom 3-1-7, Totals 15-14-46.
Waynesville (40): Thompson 0-2-2, Stoddard 5-0-10, Wolfe 1-0-2, Kizzee 4-1-9, Walker-Berry 3-1-7, Mosher 1-0-2, Williams 4-0-8, Totals 18-4-40.