By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. — Fair Grove’s front line continues to shine in the Pink & White Lady Classic, staking a claim as one of the area’s best.
Camdenton found this out the hard way in Wednesday night’s White Bracket quarterfinal, as Alana Findley and Harley Maxwell combined for 61 points to lead Fair Grove to an 81-60 victory.
“We feed off each other,” Findley said. “If one’s scoring, the other one has the assist. If the other one’s scoring, it’s vice versa. We both communicate the whole game, and we’re just working off each other.”
While Fair Grove was able to stretch its lead with a 30-7 run in the final quarter, the Lady Eagles trailed 38-28 at the half and 53-51 after three.
Camdenton’s athletic front line of Kylie Meier and Coley Rezabek threatened to steal the spotlight late in the first half, as the Lady Laker speed and passing game began to take its toll on Fair Grove’s defense.
Meier and Rezabek finished the game with 18 and 13 points, respectively, most of which came in the first three quarters. Heading into the half with a 10-point lead, the Lady Lakers seemed poised to run away in the second.
While problems defending the duo forced Fair Grove outside its comfort zone, Talbert made a crucial second-half adjustment.
“We played zone, and we haven’t really played much zone all year,” Talbert said. “We’ve talked about it during practice, and we’ve known we’re eventually going to have to play zone. [Camdenton] is so fast, and it’s hard to guard them because they have speed at every spot. We told our girls, ‘You’re just going to have to go zone, watch your area and battle.’”
Battle is exactly what the Lady Eagles did in the second half.
Led by Findley at both ends of the court, Fair Grove was able to get defensive stops, limit second-chance opportunities and navigate Camdenton’s constant full-court pressure.
Talbert praised her junior playmaker’s effort under the big-game spotlight.
“You can’t say much more about Alana,” Talbert said. “It felt like she got almost every rebound there in the second half, she’s bringing the ball up the floor, she’s hitting layups, she’s finding people open; you just can’t say enough about what she does for our team — not just scoring, but on the defensive end, as well.”
Fair Grove’s fourth-quarter outburst was keyed by a sequence of plays from sophomore Maddie Clark.
With time running out in the third, Clark hit Fair Grove’s first and only 3-pointer of the game on an open look from the wing.
After struggling from outside all evening, Talbert was relieved to final see something fall from outside 15 feet.
“The only one we hit was the one Maddie Clark hit,” Talbert said. “A kid who rarely shoots 3s came up big for us with a big shot there in the corner.”
The 400-meter state champion then displayed her speed at the defensive end, opening the fourth quarter with a pair of steal-layup combinations to give Fair Grove its first lead in over ten minutes of play at 54-53.
Talbert talked about how those plays set the stage for Fair Grove’s big finish.
“[Clark] is one of the fastest kids in the state,” Talbert said. “We know she can stay in front of people, and it was just huge for her to get those layups for us tonight. We’ve been needing that from her, and it was nice to see her do what we know she’s capable of doing.”
With Fair Grove stretching its lead thanks to Findley and Maxwell’s interior play — the duo scored 11 and 8 points, respectively, in the final frame — Camdenton was forced to foul.
The Lady Eagles responded from the free throw line, hitting 12 of 15 attempts in the quarter.
“That was awesome,” Talbert said. “It was just good to see girls step up with confidence and make their free throws. That’s what we expect them to do, and it’s nice to see it happen on a big stage like this.”
Findley and Maxwell were joined in double figures by Clark’s 13 points. Shelby Kurtz added 11 points to join Camdenton’s trio of double-figure scorers.
Both teams continue play in the Pink & White on Thursday. Fair Grove (10-1) plays the Republic in the White Bracket semifinals, while Camdenton (6-3) faces Jonesboro, Ark., in the consolation round.
Varsity final: Fair Grove – 81, Camdenton – 60
Fair Grove 15 13 23 30 — 81
Camdenton 13 25 15 07 — 60
Fair Grove scoring: Alana Findley – 36, Harley Maxwell – 25, Maddie Clark – 13, Lexie Sutherland – 4, Cydney Fullerton – 3
Camdenton scoring: Kylie Meier – 18, Coley Rezabek – 13, Shelby Kurtz – 11, Megan Vest – 6, Darby Roam – 4, Jessica Watson – 3, Abbie Miller – 3, Sabrina Schesnol – 2