Even if she misses her first couple of shots, Jeana Raper still gets the green light from coach Jim Middleton.
In Friday night’s district title game, Raper didn’t need any reassurance.
The Nixa senior guard lit up Ozark for 30 points on eight 3-pointers as the Lady Eagles won 64-55 in the Class 5, District 11 championship game.
"If I start missing, (Middleton) just tells me to keep shooting,” Raper said. “Tonight, I made my first couple (of 3s) and you never know; if I make my first couple, then I might make my next couple and make my next couple, so it just really depends on the night. Tonight was a nice night to do it."
Nixa, back in the Class 5 state playoffs for the first time since it won the championship in 2009, will face Parkview in the section round Wednesday, March 6 at SBU in Bolivar.
Raper hit five treys in the first half and helped seal the victory by going six-for-six at the free throw line in the fourth quarter. She was in eighth grade when Nixa won the 2009 championship; her older sister, Randa, was a junior on that team.
“This is my first district title and I just feel so blessed to have this opportunity,” Jeana Raper said.
The last two minutes of the game turned into a foul/free throw battle. Ozark got as close as six points after Bridget Justis hit two free throws with 55.8 seconds remaining.
Nixa then committed a turnover while trying to bring the ball upcourt, but a 3-pointer from Ozark’s Hannah Cook was no good and Raper got the rebound and hit two free throws to put the Lady Eagles ahead by eight.
“(Raper) was more active tonight moving without the ball, I think, than she has been other nights,” Middleton said. “Sometimes, you zig the right way. Sometimes, you zig and you should’ve zagged. She was obviously in the right place at the right time.”
Raper wasn’t the only Nixa player hitting big shots.
Junior forward Angie Allen drained a two-handed heave from just a few steps inside the half-court line at the third-quarter buzzer that gave the Lady Eagles a 44-40 lead. Allen scored 19, 13 in the first half.
“I said, ‘Angie, just get it to half-court,’” Middleton said. “You just never know because sometimes opponents are afraid, they’ll back off you just a bit, since they don’t want to foul you. They’re taught that. ‘Don’t foul them.’
“She got the ball and just turned and shot it. I’d like to tell you that we practice that one every day.”
Madison Wells had just three points for Nixa, but her trey came at a big moment. Cook had just scored on a putback to get Ozark within 52-46 with four minutes left.
On Nixa’s next possession, Wells was left unguarded in the right corner and hit a 3-pointer to put Nixa back up by nine.
“When (Wells) hit that, I think we all just settled back in,” Middleton said. “She hit it at a pretty important time. I felt confident that if we had a lead toward the end that we could keep it because we’ve got kids that can hit free throws. We have all year. We’ve not had a lead and then, knock on wood, it turn on us.”
Cook finished with 20 points and was the only Lady Tiger to reach double figures.
“We didn’t shoot it very well,” said Ozark coach Yancey Little. “Anyone that’s seen us play, when we shoot it we’re pretty good. When we don’t shoot it very well…”
“We’ve lived by and died by (the 3) this year. Two of our best players are (Haylee) Beard and Cook, and that’s what they do. They’ve carried us many games. I was still proud of effort. For us to not shoot very well and still get 56 points… 56 points usually is enough for us to win.”
Ozark beat Nixa 57-44 at home in the regular season on Feb. 11, but sees its season end at 20-7 overall.
"We won the one that counted," Raper said. "They beat us earlier in the season and we really wanted to make a difference tonight. I guess I was just feeling it.
"We were all on the same page, all in the zone and we had one thing on our mind, and that was upsetting Ozark. And we did. We upset Ozark, which was our goal."
Nixa 64, Ozark 55
Nixa 7 25 12 20 --- 64
Ozark 8 18 14 15 --- 55
Nixa – Jeana Raper 30, Angie Allen 19, Toshua Leavitt 6, Madison Wells 3, Shelby Ewing 2, Payton Klempel 2, Alex Sorenson 2
Ozark – Hannah Cook 20, Courtney Clancy 9, Haylee Beard 7, Ivy Reynolds 7, Brie Tauai 6, Bridget Justis 4, Jackie Fugate 2