By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. — While Nixa’s roster may not feature a go-to standout this season, make no mistake … it can hurt you from all different directions.
Utilizing a balanced, inside-out attack featuring a pair of athletic 6-footers, the Lady Eagles downed Waynesville 49-41 in the second round of Kickapoo’s Stephanie Phillips Classic.
Kelsey Biro and Bissette Michaelson combined for 22 of Nixa’s 49 points, and the duo’s size advantage proved to be key factors in the contest.
The junior Biro showcased a varied skillset, connecting on a pair of 3-pointers and a crafty reverse layup off a backdoor cut, while Michaelson attacked the paint with repeated curl drives from both elbows.
Biro finished the game with a team-high 13 points, and Michaelson chipped in 9.
Nixa head coach Jennifer Perryman praised the duo for work put in over the summer break.
“Those two are very tough matchups,” Perryman said. “Last year, they were kind of one-dimensional — Bissette would always like to go to the right, and Kelsey would like to shoot 3s. We really worked on being multi-dimensional players going to the rim and getting the 3-point shot. They want to be all-around players instead of being good at just one thing.”
While Nixa’s balanced scoring paid dividends at the offensive end, the Lady Eagles faced a difficult task in slowing down Waynesville’s Re’Shawna Stone.
From the opening tip, the Lady Tigers pushed the pace with a fast-paced transitional attack, and Stone got rolling early.
The senior guard scored 7 of her game-high 16 points in the opening frame and kept Waynesville within striking distance. The Lady Tigers trailed 12-11 after the first quarter and briefly took the lead in the second on a Stone 3-pointer.
Perryman knew slowing down Waynesville’s all-district guard would be a focal point on the evening, and that task fell mostly to sophomore Emily Edwards.
“We have to know all personnel,” Perryman said. “Whoever happened to be on her in our match-up zone at that point in time, they knew how to guard her. It happened to be Em quite a bit of the time, but when Kelsey traded off — or any of our other guards — they did a good job. It’s just knowing the game plan; it’s knowing us and knowing who they are and being prepared.”
Edwards drew double-duty much of the evening for the Lady Eagles as both playmaker and defensive stopper. The 5-foot-6 guard connected for 7 of her 11 points in the second quarter to help put Nixa up 25-23 heading into the break.
In the third quarter, Waynesville jumped into the lead with a 7-2 run to open the second half.
A 3-pointer from freshman Naudia Evans and a driving layup from Stone got the Lady Wildcats off to a quick start, before Nixa’s length and overall depth began to make an impact.
Waynesville found itself in early foul trouble trying to defend the paint, and starter Naudia Evans was forced to the bench with her fourth foul at the 6:32 mark.
With Evans off the court, Waynesville head coach Brittany Matlock talked about the tough decisions a shallow bench can cause.
“That’s another ball-handler, and we’re not that deep of a bench,” Matlock said. “I’d say we had a lot of unnecessary turnovers, but they happened because of Nixa forcing us out of our comfort zones, and we just have to get more comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Despite foul and free throw troubles — Waynesville made only 3 of 11 attempts on the evening — the Lady Wildcats still finished the third quarter with a slim, 37-35 lead.
Locked in a close game, Nixa’s battle-tested experience started to pay off. The Lady Eagles slowed the game down with a patient, methodic half-court attack that produced an 11-2 fourth-quarter run to close out the game.
Michaelson’s and-one elbow drive to open the quarter put Nixa up 38-37, and Biro followed with a pair of baskets — including a high-arcing, step-back 3-pointer — to give the Lady Eagles a bit of breathing room en route to the victory.
“When we weren’t patient on offense; when we rushed our shots, we weren’t in position to get back on defense,” Perryman said. “That’s what [Waynesville] wants to do. They want to get the rebound and go. We were patient, got good looks and kind of wore them down with ball reversals because they were having to guard longer in the half court, and then they can’t run and gun.”
Despite the disappointing loss, the young season holds plenty of promise for Waynesville and Matlock.
“I told the girls, ‘We have the pieces, we just need to figure it all out.’” Matlock said. “Some of us are adjusting to new roles. Hopefully, as the season goes on, we’ll get better at all that.”
Both teams are back in action for Saturday’s final round in the Stephanie Phillips Classic. Nixa (3-0) faces Jefferson City at noon, while Waynesville (2-2) squares off against Parkview at 4:30.
Varsity final: Nixa – 49, Waynesville – 41
Nixa 12 13 10 13 — 49
Waynesville 11 12 14 04 — 41
Nixa scoring: Kelsey Biro – 13, Emily Edwards 11, Bissette Michaelson – 9, Lakin Copeland – 9, Paige Sportsman – 4, Kenzie Hines – 2, Halley Wiggins – 1
Waynesville scoring: Re’Shawna Stone – 16, Naudia Evans – 5, Kiara Shoulders – 5, Victoria Perry – 4, Katie Handley – 4, Afatia Poinsette – 4, Makenzie Coleman – 3