Day two of the US Bank Holiday Invitational provided another day of great basketball on Thursday, Dec. 29. St. James, Newburg and Rolla all played in semi-final games, with two of the three advancing to championships.
St. James beats Waynesville in semis for third straight year
The Lady Tigers faced off against Waynesville in the semi-final for the third straight year on Thursday and walked away with their third straight win to advance to the tournament championship. St. James has hung their hat on their defense this season and that continued on Thursday. They held Waynessville to just eight points in the first quarter, but had some trouble locking down Nina Kizzee, who scored six of those points. Offensively, they matched Waynesville beat for beat before breaking away late in the quarter. A pair of threes by Savanna Riccetti helped put St. James on an 8-2 run to end the quarter and take a 15-8 lead into the second.
The second quarter was similar to the first, where Waynesville kept things right early, but St. James went on another run to end the quarter to stretch out their lead. The second quarter's run was a 9-0 run to close the half, putting St. James out in front with a 28-14 lead and in a position to run away with the game.
St. James opened the second half a little bit sluggish and let Waynesville stay in the game. This was the second consecutive game where the Lady Tigers took a big lead into the locker room and came out flat in the second half, but both times they've recovered and finished strong.
“I think it was a difficult position for us and one I'm glad we went through,” the St. James coach said. “We played almost a flawless first half against what they were trying to do. We [played good defense], we did exactly what we game-planned for defensively. In the second half, once we built that lead, I think we took our foot off the gas a little bit and it lead to some confusion.”
Waynesville chipped and chipped at the lead through the third quarter and into the fourth, bringing things as close as five points. As soon as the score hit 36-31, the Lady Tigers decided to slow things down very early in the fourth. St. James turned the ball over after holding onto the ball for five seconds, but a stop on the defensive end kept the lead the same. The Lady Tigers were then given a gift by Waynesville when ReShawna Stone was called for a technical with 4:31 left in the game. That technical sparked a 9-3 run to end the game for St. James to cap off a 45-34 win. Devin Fuhring again powered the offense with 22 points while grabbing eight boards in the win.
The Lady Tigers advanced to play Lindbergh in the championship on Friday at 5:00, but results were not available at press time.
- Staff writer Derek Dueker contributed to this story
St. James: Fuhring - 22 pts, 8 rebs, 3 stls, 1 ast; Guese - 6 pts, 9 rebs, 2 stls, 1 ast; Riccetti - 6 pts, 6 rebs, 4 asts, 1 stl; Rinehart - 5 pts, 3 rebs; Losing - 3 pts, 3 rebs, 2 ast; Lindemann - 2 pts; Paulus - 2 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast; Fane - 1 reb, 1 ast
Waynesville - Shoulders - 13 pts, Kizzee - 10 pts, Stone - 6, Pilz - 3, Aragon - 2
Bad shooting sends Newburg to third place game
Newburg has always had a problem with open gyms and when they realized they'd be playing at S&T, they knew that problem might pop up again. Shooting in open gyms can be tough for any high school player that is used to playing in more condensed gym, because that empty space behind the backboard throws off a shooters depth perception. That's even more of a problem for smaller schools, who almost never play in larger gyms. It was a problem for them at Laquey in the Frisco League Tournament and it was again on Thursday.
"If you look at our misses, I've always told the kids since they were little, as long as you're on-line, your mechanics are good. Every shot they were missing was on-line, even the shots that were short. We shot some uncharacteristic airballs, but they were right on-line," said head coach Steve Guffey. "We just had a lot of shots that didn't fall and we struggled from the free throw line at first. We started making them down the stretch when we needed to, it's just we don't shoot well in these big open gyms because we're a small school and we go to these other small schools and play in these closed in gymnasiums that aren't very big and you put us out there in one of these big open things (and things don't go well)."
The shooting problems were evident early, as only Riley Guffey and Allyssa Dondinger were able to get shots to fall in the first quarter. Guffey did the heavy lifting, scoring 11 of Newburg's 13 points in the quarter to put them ahead of Lindbergh 13-9.
In the second, Newburg went ice cold, particularly from the free throw line. The Lady Wolves went 2-7 from the charity stripe in the second quarter and the typically reliable Guffey missed all four of her attempts. Newburg scored just eight points in the quarter. Meanwhile, Lindbergh went 6-6 from the line and took a 22-21 lead into the half.
The third quarter was sluggish for both teams, as neither team was able to get things going. Newburg again left points at the line, making just one of their four free throw attempts. That one point led Lindbergh carried into the half was carried into the fourth. The lead was traded off throughout the quarter, but it was Lindbergh who finished the quarter with it.
Lindbergh looked like they might run away with the game at times in the fourth quarter, stretching the lead out to five or more points at times. Newburg had several opportunities to score early, but missed easy layups and shots. They were able to close the gap late in the quarter, as they finally started to knock down free throws. Guffey went a perfect 6-6 from the charity stripe in the fourth, but they needed a little more help. With 45 seconds left, down two points, McKayla Callahan forced a turnover and got the ball to Guffey, who was fouled. She knocked down both free throws to tie the game at 39. On Lindbergh's next possession, they attempted to take the last shot and Audrey Suschanke was called for a shooting foul with 2.2 seconds left, fouling out of the game. That sent Sejal Krell to the line, where she made the first free throw and missed the second. Coach Guffey called a timeout to attempt to get one more shot off, but the long pass down the court was swatted away and time ran out.
While Newburg didn't shoot well, that's not necessarily the only reason for the loss. They watched Lindbergh's erratic play against Rolla and started to look ahead to the game that they really wanted to play, the championship against their friends in St. James.
"We're such good friends (with St. James). We were looking forward to it and coach Wells and I are such good buddies and we were wanting to play each other, but that's what happens when you look past somebody because, honestly, this is my fault, but I told the girls after watching them last night, they were hard to scout, but I thought we were going to win this game by 15, I really thought that. Sometimes that's when you wish they would've just went home (and not watched the game between Lindbergh and Rolla)," said coach Guffey. "They stayed and watched and they were a little over confident."
The loss sent the Lady Wolves into the third place game against Waynesville on Friday, where they lost 45-33. See Monday's paper for the full story.
Guffey - 21, Brookshire - 6, Callahan - 4, Susckanke - 4, Dondinger - 3
Second half comeback sends Rolla into championship
Rolla faced off with Pacific for their semi-final matchup, which was riddled with fouls. Rolla's Blaize Klossner was called for two fouls within the first minute of the game. The flurry of fouls made it difficult for either team to get into a rhythm, as both teams were already in the bonus with over a minute left in the quarter. Pacific was able to work through those fouls a little bit better and get out to a 13-8 lead through the opening quarter.
Rolla adjusted to their foul count by switching to a zone defense for a large portion of the second quarter. Their zone was not as efficient as their man-to-man defense, giving Pacific a few more open looks. As a result, Pacific knocked down three baskets from behind the arc to lead to a 14 point quarter. Meanwhile, Pacific kept racking up the fouls and sending Rolla to the line. The Bulldogs left a few points at the charity stripe, making five of their eight attempts. As Rolla kept getting fouled, they still couldn't find a way to get into rhythm and trailed 27-17 going into the half.
Rolla responded extremely well in the third quarter, chipping away at that lead through the beginning of the quarter. With team fouls cleared at the half, Rolla was able to increase their defensive pressure a bit without the risk of sending Pacific to the foul line. As a result, they held Pacific to just four points in the third and went from trailing by 10 to taking a 33-31 lead into the fourth quarter.
Rolla continued that lockdown defense in the fourth quarter, again holding Pacific to just four points. As Pacific tried to make a comeback of their own, they were forced to keep fouling the Bulldogs. Rolla went to the free throw line 13 times in the fourth quarter and missed only one of those attempts on their way to an eventual blowout and 51-35 win.
"It just felt like handcuffs all night, so it took a while to get started. And when that happens, sometimes it causes a guy to think to much and it causes a guy to shut down a little bit and lay off the aggressiveness a little bit. It felt like that was what was happening to us in the first half," said head coach Mark Miller. "We talked effort in the locker room at halftime and how we needed to step it up both offensively, but especially defensively. The guys came out and really busted it and worked hard in that second half and made not only good things happen defensively, but then shots started to fall and we'd get fouled and we made some free throws."
The Bulldogs have had an up and down start to their season, but players are starting to get used to their roles a little bit more and learned some lessons from tough losses. As a result, they were able to make adjustments and overcome that halftime deficit.
"I told them that I like this situation where we're facing adversity the whole game," said coach Miller. "It felt like the whole game things weren't going our way and we were frustrated with it. That's a great opportunity to learn life lessons during that, where things aren't always fair, things aren't always going your way, but keep walking through it and battling through it, work hard and sometimes good things will happen."
The Bulldogs went on to face Hogan Prep in the championship on Friday night, but results from that game were not available at press time.
Pritchett - 20, Burns - 10, Buhr - 7, Klossner - 5, Janke - 3, B. Cunningham - 3, Martin - 2, A. Cunningham - 1
North County sends Lady Bulldogs into seventh place game
The biggest issue for Rolla on Thursday was foul trouble. North County wanted to attack the heart of the Rolla defense and it worked. Megan Brown ended up fouling out in the game, while Rebecca Janke and Karlee Cheesman each had four fouls. Rolla sent North County to the free throw line 38 times in the game and the Lady Raiders took advantage. North County made 27 of those three throws. That made a huge difference, as Rolla only attempted 20 free throws and made 12 of them. The 15 additional points at the free throw line almost completely eliminates Rolla's 20 point deficit in a 60-40 loss.
North County slowly built their lead, jumping out to a 12-7 lead in the first quarter. That lead was further stretched in the second by scoring 19 points and carrying a 31-17 lead at the half. Rolla was behind the eight ball all game and tried to fight their way back into the game, but couldn't overcome that halftime lead with North County's repeated trips to the free throw line.
For the second consecutive game, head coach Luke Floyd is taking the blame for the loss.
"For the second game this week, I didn't have us prepared for our game. North County did a great job of attacking our defense and getting to the free throw line. The game planning on my part did not put the girls in a position to have success," said coach Floyd. "The effort was good. There are things we need to clean up, but if they continue to work hard and I come up with better game plans, we will have success."
Pritchett - 13 pts, 5 rebs, 2 stls; Cheesman - 12 pts, 2 rebs, 2 asts, 4 stls; Dupes - 8 pts, 3 rebs, 2 asts, 1 stl; Dean - 5 pts, 1 ast; Janke - 4 pts, 8 rebs, 1 blk; Harmon - 3 pts, 4 rebs, 2 asts, 1 stl; Rodgers - 2 rebs, 1 ast, 1 blk, 2 stls; Brown - 1 reb, 1 blk