Friday, Dec. 30 was the final day of the US Bank Holiday Invitational and it was a day packed with great basketball. The day was capped off by a pair of phenomenal championship games with St. James taking the title in the girls tournament, while Rolla fell to Hogan Prep in the highest scoring game in tournament history.
Lady Tigers win third tournament title in four years
This year's St. James seniors have played in the championship of the US Bank Holiday Invitational every year they've been in school, coming out on top twice coming into this year's tournament. Last season was the only time this senior class lost in the championship game of this tournament and it definitely weighed down on them. They came into this matchup against Lindbergh looking to avenge their loss from last season.
"Last year left a sour taste in our mouths and a chip on our shoulders," said senior Devin Fuhring. Head coach Terry Wells added. "We talked about (last year's loss) a lot. In the championship game against North County last year we absolutely pulled a no show and North County came down here and kicked our butt in our own kinda backyard. The girls still gripe about the practice that we had after that game last year."
After a very close first quarter, St. James started to break away in the second quarter, showing their hunger to win that championship. Furhing had 13 points in the first half, nearly outscoring Lindbergh herself. Eight first-half points from Kenzie Guese and a few baskets from the rest of the team sprinkled in gave the Lady Tigers a 27-17 halftime lead. St. James allowed just seven points in the second quarter after Lindbergh was able to find a couple of holes in the St. James zone to start the game. Part of Fuhring's success in the opening quarter on the offensive end came from her teammates finding her open looks, rather than her needing to create her own shot. Her offensive output also came in spite of early foul trouble, as she had two fouls in the first quarter and was forced to sub in and out repeatedly in the second quarter.
St. James has been a great third quarter team this season, but has had some issues in the third quarter during this tournament. They had some wake up calls in their first two games and turned things around against Lindbergh. There was a slight lull in the middle of the quarter to allow Lindbergh to stay in the game, but a strong finish gave them a 45-30 lead with a quarter to play. Savanna Riccetti provided some great offensive pop in the quarter, dropping down a pair of threes to lead the team in points in the quarter. The third quarter was one of St. James' best quarters of spreading around the offensive production, with four different players each chipping in a few points to an 18 point quarter, rather than the production all falling onto Fuhring and Guese.
The Lady Tigers took a 15 point lead into the fourth quarter and shut Lindbergh down to walk away with a tournament championship. St. James allowed just six points in the fourth quarter and dropped 12 of their own on their way to the win. Fuhring finished strong with seven points despite having four fouls for most of the quarter. Lindbergh upped the pressure in the fourth quarter with a heavy press that occasionally gave St. James some problems, but they worked through it on the way to a 57-36 win. Fuhring led the way with 25 points, while Guese chipped in 16, as the two were named Co-MVPs of the tournament. Guese was forced to take on a little bit more of a leadership role in the championship, because of Fuhring's foul trouble and she responded well to that extra pressure.
"We share the leadership role normally when shes on the court, so when she's gone she gives more of it to me," said Guese. "I have to become the voice of the entire team instead of having my partner out there with me, but we pulled it off."
The win kept the Lady Tiger's undefeated season alive at 13-0. While Furhing and Guese said they've played too many games to really focus on the win loss record, it was simple for coach Wells.
"What undefeated record?" said coach Wells as he tried to hold in a chuckle. "We don't talk about it, we move along to the next one. Who's next? Nixa. Nixa's very good."
That game against Nixa comes on Thursday, Dec. 5.
Fuhring - 25, Guese - 16, Riccetti - 9, Rinehart - 4, Q. Paulus - 1
Rolla falls in high scoring affair against Hogan Prep
Rolla had a tough task ahead of them in their championship game against Hogan Prep. The Rams are an extremely fast and athletic team that spent the first two days blowing teams out of the water. The Bulldogs responded that athleticism by switching from their traditional man-to-man defense to a zone defense to slow down their high-powered offense. That worked extremely well early on, as they were able to keep pace with Hogan Prep well in the first quarter. While they didn't completely shut down the Hogan Prep offense, they slowed them down a bit and managed to match them well. Hogan Prep, in contrast, pressed the entire game and the Bulldogs worked around that press extremely well in the opening quarter. Hogan Prep was able to build their lead as the first quarter wore down after Rolla was able to keep the deficit around three points for a good portion of the quarter. That lead was stretched out to 24-15 by the end of the quarter before Hogan Prep completely took over in the second quarter.
Hogan Prep ramped up the intensity on their press in the second quarter and started to trap Rolla well in transition. As a result, the turnovers started to rise in the second quarter. Another thing that helped Hogan Prep expand on their lead in the second was foul trouble. Both teams were racking up the fouls in the first half, with both teams in the double bonus for a good portion of the second quarter. With all of those fouls, Rolla still only managed to go to the free throw line seven times in the quarter. Meanwhile, Hogan Prep went to the charity stripe 15 times, making nine of those attempts. Rolla was able to bring the score as close to six points early in the quarter, but the Rams went on a huge run to end the quarter to take a 48-29 lead into the half.
Despite the foul trouble and huge deficit, the Bulldogs kept fighting in the second half. Fouls were still a major issue in the second half, as it seemed like half the team was on the verge of fouling out for most of the half. Rolla continued to send Hogan Prep to the free throw line in the third quarter, but they were able to slow down their scoring from the field. Hogan Prep went 12-14 from the free throw line in the third, but only scored 12 points from the field in a high scoring quarter for both teams. Rolla basically matched them beat for beat, scoring 21 points to Hogan Prep's 23. Josh Pritchett and Zac Burns led the Bulldogs in the third, scoring 10 and eight points respectively. Several Rolla players spent the quarter coming on and off the bench in foul trouble. Nick Janke spent most of the quarter on the bench after getting his fourth fouls with more than five minutes left in the quarter. Alec Buhr was called for his fourth foul 25 seconds later before fouling out with 4:17 left in the third quarter. All of the scoring brought the score to 71-50 with a quarter to play.
Again, the fouls kept coming in the fourth, as Janke fouled out four minutes into the quarter. Rolla actually won the scoring battle in the fourth quarter with 28 points, 13 of which came from Pritchett. Blaize Klossner dropped a pair of threes in the quarter himself, scoring eight points, as the Bulldogs tried to make a monumental comeback. Unfortunately, the deficit was far to large to overcome, as Hogan Prep walked away with a 94-78 win. The game set the tournament record for total points with 174 points and Hogan Prep tied the individual team scoring record in a game with 94. Pritchett led the team with 28 points and was named to the All-Tournament team. Not far behind him was Burns with 20 points. Even though he fouled out on Friday night, Janke was also named to the All-Tournament team with Pritchett.
Despite the margin of the loss, head coach Mark Miller was proud of the fight that his team showed all night long.
"You gotta like the way they battled all the way to the end," said coach Miller. "It's one of those things where you've really gotta take your hat off to Hogan, because we played really hard and they hit shots. They hit a lot of shots early and got them out to a nice lead. It's always easier to play with a lead like that, but they hit shots, we turned it over a bit too much and we didn't hit free throws like we needed to. But when it came down the stretch, I don't care if it looked out of reach, the guys just kept battling and battling."
As for the tournament and their 2016 portion of their season as a whole, the Bulldogs struggled early on, but coach Miller thinks this team is starting to reach their expectations.
"I think that the guys are where we thought they were," said coach Miller. "I think the guys are continuing to progress and I think we're a very solid basketball team right now. I feel like the team that we played against tonight is probably as good as any team that we're probably going to face the entire year. We're getting there, we're going to get better as the year goes on, but I like where we're at right now...good things are upon us."
Next up for the Bulldogs is a matchup with Union on Monday, Jan. 6, before opening their conference schedule against Hillcrest on Tuesday, Jan. 10. Both of those games will be at home.
Pritchett - 28, Burns - 20, Klossner - 16, Buhr, A. Cunningham and Janke - 4, B. Cunningham - 2
Shooting struggles continue for Newburg in third place game
The Lady Wolves have had issues shooting in open gyms, it sent them to the third place game with a loss to Lindbergh and it led them to losing the third place game to Waynesville on Friday, Dec. 30. The slow offensive output was evident for both teams, as the first quarter ended with a 9-8 game with Waynesville in front.
Waynesville then started the second quarter with some better shooting, going on a 7-0 run to kick off the quarter. With almost half of the quarter expired, Newburg trailed 16-8. From there on, Newburg kicked things into gear, going on a 10-3 run of their own. Waynesville's three points came from the free throw line, as the Lady Wolves locked things down from the field. Unfortunately, the Newburg offense didn't come from the field either, as all 10 points came from the charity stripe. The biggest downside to the quarter was an injury to Riley Guffey. She launched a prayer as the half expired and was fouled hard and stayed down for a long time. Guffey left the game with an apparent left-hand injury, so Kylee Brookshire was sent to the line to take her three free throws, cutting the Waynesville lead to 19-18 at the half.
Guffey came back into the game to start the third quarter and didn't appear to be hindered by the injury. Her father and coach Steve Guffey said that she rarely has trouble playing through pain.
“Being dad, I'm always telling her to suck it up and be tough,” Guffey said. “One year she broke her hand and I didn't take her to the doctor because I kept telling her she had to suck it up and she played half a season with a broken hand.”
With Guffey's injury, Brookshire took over the heavy-lifting on offense, scoring all but four of Newburg's 12 points in the third quarter. The scoring dried up in the fourth quarter, as the Lady Wolves scored three points from the free throw line and made just two field goals on their way to a 45-33 loss.
While coach Guffey was not a huge fan of the officiating as the game went on, he doesn't blame the officials for the loss.
“It wasn't the officials' fault we lost the ballgame but it changes the mental aspect of the game whenever you are down by two or whatever and you're shooting free throws as opposed to losing the ball several times,” Guffey said. “It works on you mentally. You know, young kids. It's tough. There's a lot of psychology to the game and a foul here or there might have helped them. But you have to do a better job of protecting the ball when it's in your hands.”
Newburg was led by Brookshire, who had 13. Guffey had eight, Van Pelt four, McKayla Callahan three, Allyssa Dondlinger and Alexis Stevenson two and Audrey Suschanke one.
The Lady Wolves (8-3) will look to turn things around from their fourth place finish with a matchup at home against Union on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
-Staff writer Derek Dueker contributed to this piece.
Brookshire - 13, Guffey - 8, Van Pelt - 4, Callahan - 3, Stevenson and Dondinger - 2, Suschanke - 1
Rolla finishes strong with a finish with a win in the seventh place game
The Lady Bulldog offense woke up in a big way against Smith-Cotton in the seventh place game on Friday. After getting out to a 14-10 lead through the opening quarter, they absolutely exploded for 26 points in the second quarter. Seven players scored for Rolla in the second quarter, led by eight points by Rebecca Janke. That huge quarter gave Rolla a 40-15 lead at the half that they never looked back from.
They maintained that lead in the second half by matching Smith-Cotton with 24 points in the second half on their way to a 64-39 win. Janke led the way with 17 points and 14 rebounds for a double-double. Behind her was a well balanced attack, where eight players had at least five points. The inside attack was their biggest strength, as Megan Brown was second in scoring with nine points with seven rebounds.
The Lady Bulldogs (3-7) will look to build another winning streak when they travel to Salem on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
Janke - 17 pts, 14 rebs, 2 blks, 1 ast, 1 stl; Brown - 9 pts, 7 rebs, 3 blks; Rodgers - 7 pts, 6 asts, 4 rebs, 3 stls; Brow - 7 pts, 3 rebs, 2 asts, 2 stls; Pritchett - 7 pts, 6 rebs; Dupes - 6 pts, 1 reb, ast and blk; Cheesman - 5 pts, 2 rebs; Dean - 5 pts, 5 rebs; Burken - 1 pt, 6 rebs