(Editor's Note: This is one in a series of team profiles for the US Bank/Rolla High Girls' Basketball Tournament. Today: The St. James Lady Tigers.)
The St. James High School girls' basketball team will be making the nine-mile trek to Rolla on Thursday in a bad mood.
And that could spell trouble for the rest of the field.
The Lady Tigers, ranked No. 1 in last week's Missouri Class 3 state poll, are coming off their first loss of the season, falling to Park Hills Central 63-52 in a battle of undefeated teams during the championship game of the weather-delayed Potosi Tournament on Saturday.
St. James is going to want to get things turned back around in convincing fashion during the US Bank/Rolla High School Holiday Invitational, to be held Thursday through Saturday at the Rolla High gym.
In first-round games on Thursday St. James meets Houston at 3 p.m.; St. Clair challenges Fulton at 4:30; Rolla takes on Sedalia Smith-Cotton at 6 p.m., and Waynesville faces Newburg at 7:30 p.m.
In the girls' bracket on Friday the St. James-Houston loser plays the Rolla-Sedalia loser at 2 p.m. and the St. Clair-Fulton loser plays the Waynesville-Newburg loser at 3:30 p.m. in consolation play while the semifinal games pit the St. James-Houston winner against the Rolla-Sedalia winner at 5 p.m. and the St. Clair-Fulton winner against the Waynesville-Newburg winner at 6:30 p.m.
On Saturday in the girls' bracket, the seventh-place game is set for 9:30 a.m., the fifth-place game at 12:30 p.m., the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. and the championship game at 6:30 p.m.
It's been several years since St. James was last a participant in the Rolla Girls' Tournament. And the Lady Tigers figure to be the team to beat this season.
Despite Saturday's disappointment St. James is off to a 7-1 start so far this season after finishing third in last season's Missouri Class 3 State Tournament. The Lady Tigers had a 26-5 overall record in 2012-13.
Terry Wells, in his second season as Lady Tiger head coach, says his squad will use Saturday's setback as a learning tool.
"We'll learn more from that game than the first seven," Wells said. "You get beat like we did Saturday, it teaches you a lot about your weaknesses. And it shows the kids what it will take."
St. James has an interesting mix of youth and experience. Back from last season's Final Four squad are 5-7 junior guard Alexis Uffmann, 5-4 senior guard Ali Kean, 5-6 senior guard Hannah Perona, 5-6 senior guard Emma Rogers, 5-5 junior guard Lindsay Seams, 5-6 junior guard Ashlee Marlatt, 5-5 sophomore guard Shauna Rinehart and 5-10 senior forward Amie Diestelkamp.
Page 2 of 2 - Key players added to that rotation this season are a pair of 5-10 freshman forwards - Devin Fuhring and Kenzie Guese - who have made immediate contributions.
Marlatt leads the balanced squad with a 15.3 scoring average while averaging 3.3 steals and has hit 20 three-pointers at a 35.7 percent clip.
Fuhring averages 14.8 points and a team-leading 8.0 rebounds while Uffmann averages 11.1 points, 8.1 assists, 6.1 steals and hits a whopping 57 percent of her three-pointers; Rinehart averages 10.6 points and has hit 17 three-pointers (34 percent), and Guese averages 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 steals.
Uffmann ranks first in the St. Louis area in assists and fourth in steals while Marlatt ranks sixth and Rinehart 14th among St. Louis area players in number of made three-point field goals per game.
Wells says the holiday tourney comes at a good time.
"At this point in the season the kids are ready to play," he said. "To string 10-to-12 practices over the holidays without a tournament is tough to do."