Terry Wells reached a new milestone with the St. James girls basketball team on Thursday, Jan. 3, as a 39-22 win over Steelville gave him victory number 200. Wells new before the season that he was closing in on the mark, but was pleasantly surprised the win came on their home court on Thursday night.
"To be honest, I wasn't even aware of it. The girls kinda surprised me after the game. I guess once they brought the plaque out, I had sent some stuff off for tournaments earlier in the season that had my career record and to start the season, I had 193, but I hadn't thought about it since," said coach Wells. "It was a pretty fun moment with the girls. They surprised me after and we had some good laughs over it."
St. James set an excellent tone with a great first quarter against Steelville, which is something they've struggled to do this season. Defensively, they were lights out. Steelville scored just two points in the first quarter, both of which came at the free throw line. Offensively, Mikaela Donnelly and Riley Whitener each scored four points in a 12-point first to take an early lead. Coach Wells was thrilled to see his team set the tone early.
"It was very important. I thought our defensive intensity in the first quarter was just outstanding, really on point defensively," said the Lady Tiger head coach. "I don't even know if Steelville had a field goal, I think they just hit a couple of free throws, but it set a tone."
While St. James set the tone in the first quarter, Steelville was able to rally in the second. The Lady Cardinals scored 15 points in the second quarter, while St. James managed just nine. The Lady Tigers were able to hold on to a 21-17 lead at the half, but it wasn't the second quarter St. James was looking for.
"Our offense wasn't going, but our defensive intensity was so high and we created just enough offense, we were able to spread the gap (in the second quarter) and we didn't do that and it became a really tight game," said Wells.
After the half, the St. James defense settled back in and dominated for the remaining two quarters. Steelville managed to score just five points after halftime. The Lady Tiger offense wasn't able to find much rhythm in the third quarter, scoring just five points of their own, but they were able to bury Steelville with 13 points in the fourth on their way to the 39-22 win.
"Lucky enough, at halftime we kind of found our defensive footing again and were able to get the win," said coach Wells. "This team has shown an ability all year to bounce back when things don't go their way. I don't think you can really count them out. They're a group that really works hard. They're gamers, they compete. We've just got to continue to get better and put together 32 minutes."
This was an important win for St. James for more than just Wells' 200th victory. Steelville is a District opponent for St. James and every win over a District team during the regular season leads to a better seed.
"We definitely talked about that in the pregame," said Wells of the importance of playing a District team. "I told them that this game and the game Monday against Belle were probably going to be two of the most important games of the season. It's mid-season, we hopefully haven't played our best basketball yet, but we really need to play our best basketball and focus up these next two games, because it sets us up for an easier path in Districts with a higher seed."
Hannah Marcee led the offensive charge for St. James in the win, scoring 12 points, while adding four rebounds and two steals. Savannah Riccetti added 10 points, four steals, three rebounds, two assists and a block. Whitener chipped in with six points and three rebounds. Alyson Bullock and Donnelly each scored four points with Bullock adding five rebounds and Donnelly adding two boards and an assist. Ashlyn Rinehart scored three points to go along with four rebounds, three assists and a steal. Bailey Wells led the team with seven rebounds, while adding four steals and two assists.
The Lady Tigers will look to keep rolling as they gear up for the Comet Classic in Fatima next week. They kick off the tournament with another District opponent when they face off against Belle on Monday.