By Matt Turer — @MattTurer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
WILLARD, Mo. — After trailing by two at the half, everything changed for Camdenton.
And it started with Nicole Rezabek.
The Lakers’ high-energy senior captain scored 13 points in the third quarter and 20 of her 22 points in the second half, leading top-seed Camdenton to a 78-62 win over 2-seed Willard in the Class 5 District 10 championship.
“I went into halftime and coach [Staci Caffey] told me I’ve got to change something,” Rezabek said. “This wasn’t going to be my last game and I knew I wasn’t going to give up for my team. We worked so hard to get to this moment. I came out in the third quarter and had the mindset that no one’s stopping me. I’m taking it to the hole. I changed my adjustments like coach told me to, and no one was stopping our team.”
Camdenton (19-7) trailed by as many as eight points in the third quarter before outscoring Willard (18-8) 48-24 over the game’s final 13 minutes.
“You get that momentum built up and then you keep going,” Rezabek said. “Having all our fans here, we knew they traveled two hours to get here and we had to put on a show for them and we sure did that.”
Kylie Meier finished with 19 points and Shelby Kurtz added 13 for the Lakers, who won their first district title since 2015.
Hannah Bird led Willard with 16 points, Brooklyn Wade added 12 and Josie Sanders had 10.
THE GAME WAS OVER WHEN
Camdenton took a 61-56 lead halfway into the fourth quarter and went on a 16-6 run. That late push represented the floodgates opening on a second half that saw a 24-point swing in favor of the Lakers.
“We came into the second half for the first time all season without foul trouble,” Caffey said. “We were able to get in attack mode in the second half early and apply pressure. I think that forced Willard to take some quick shots on the outside.”
That pressure also forced Willard into 29 turnovers, with most coming in the second half.
“Our inability to secure the basketball from one end of the floor to the other one [was the difference],” Willard coach JJ Adamson said. “During that [second-half] run they were getting the basketball to the low post where they wanted to and from that point forward they were able to speed the game up on us, and we turned it over and that’s it.”
IT STARTED WITH A LOOK
Trailing 28-26 at the half, Caffey had a message for Rezabek.
“I said if there’s ever a time, it’s now. She said, ‘I’ve got it coach.’ And I knew she did,” Caffey said.
“She says it all with her eyes. And when she gives me that fist pump and that look, it’s just one of those amazing moments. She put the team on her back. She said I want the ball. And the girls did everything they could to get it to her.”
Willard’s 18 wins were the most for the program in more than a decade.
Wade and Joran Stout-Mitchell are the Tigers’ only two outgoing seniors, which leaves room to grow with an experienced roster next season.
“We’re proud of these young ladies,” Adamson said. “They did things we’ve been waiting on a long time here on the girls basketball side of Willard. We give a ton of credit to our two seniors and we’re excited about where we go from here.”
Camdenton will face Blue Springs (12-13) in sectional play on March 7 in Sedalia. The Lakers haven’t won beyond district play in over a decade.
“This group has been one of those from the get-go that I kept saying, if they’re all in, we’re going to be a hard team to beat,” Caffey said. “The comradery this group has is amazing. This is an All-American group. It’s going to be hard when it ends because they’re fighters.”
Willard 11-17-17-17 — 62
Camdenton 13-13-25-27 — 78