The St. James girls basketball team (16-0) hosted Steelville on Tuesday, Jan. 10 and absolutely dominated on both sides of the basketball all night long on their way to a 57-23 win.
The Lady Tigers set the tone in the first quarter, holding Steelville to just two points. That defense was important, because the St. James offense was up and down in the opening quarter. After getting out to a quick start, St. James went cold for a stretch of four or five minutes. That defense allowed them to maintain that lead early while they got back into a groove and gave them a 15-2 lead going into the second quarter.
"(Defense) is what set the tone," said head coach Terry Wells. "We started out the first couple of minutes and scored eight or 10 pretty quick points, then we went on a lull in the first quarter for four or five minutes where we didn't score, but neither did they. That's what you need when your offense is struggling, because some nights you're offense struggles, your defense has to be consistent and we really preach that."
St. James certainly got into a groove in the second quarter. The Lady Tigers scored 23 points in the quarter and stayed strong on the defensive end, holding Steelville to just six more points. That gave the Lady Tigers a staggering 38-8 lead at the half.
St. James took their foot off the gas a little in the second half, scoring a total of 19 points. Defensively, they held strong, allowing just 15 points in the second half on their way to an easy 57-23 win.
Devin Fuhring was nearly perfect on the offensive end, missing only one shot all game long. She was 9-10 from the field with her lone miss coming from behind the arc. She sank five threes and went a perfect 4-4 on two point shots. But it wasn't just the traditional duo of Fuhring and Kenzie Guese, who fell just one basket and one rebound shy of a double-double with eight points and nine boards. A lot of role players stepped up in a big way. Offensively, the player that had the biggest punch was Emily Bullock with had a phenomenal performance from behind the arc, going 3-4 and scoring nine points. She and role players stepped up offensively, so the scoring didn't just fall on those two.
"It was a great moment for Emily, who comes to practice every day, works hard and doesn't always get to play as much as she likes. She was ready and came off the bench firing and got going and it was really a great moment for her," said coach Wells. "We had our sophomores come up, Ashlyn Rinehart scored some nice baskets inside, Savanna Riccetti hit some outside shots for us. Our role players really contributed for us in a lot of ways to winning that game int he fashion that we did."
But those role players didn't just chip in points, a lot of players that don't necessarily fill up the stat sheet every night made huge contributions on the defensive end.
"They held Steelville's top two scorers (Hannah Cottrell and Abby Booker), neither one of them scored a single point and a lot of that was on Quinn Paulus and Kennedy Fane and Savanna Riccetti and Madi Lindemann and Ashlyn Rinehart with that assignment," said coach Wells. "They went out there and did it and those baskets are just an extra bonus for those kids."
The Lady Tigers' next big task comes against Licking on Thursday, Jan. 12. The Lady Wilcats come into the game with a 10-3 record and won the Frisco League Tournament earlier this season. Licking is actually also coming off of a game against Steelville, but that game was much closer with a final score of 45-43.
"We'll expect a tough battle, it's always tough to go to Licking and play," said Wells. "(Head coach Steve Rissler) is very familiar with us, so he'll have his kids ready and we'll go down there with the mentality that we're 0-0 and try to go down there and do what we do and try to out-work them and get a win."
Fuhring - 23 pts, 5 rebs, 4 asts, 4 stls, 1 blk; Bullock - 9 pts; Guese - 8 pts, 9 rebs, 4 asts, 4, stls, 3 blks; Riccetti - 6 pts, 4 rebs, 3 asts, 2 stls; Rinehart - 6 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast; Q. Paulus - 3 pts, 1 ast, 1 stl; Lindemann - 2 pts, 3 rebs, 4 asts. 2 stls; S. Paulus - 1 reb, Forstrom - 1 stl