By Nolan Epstein
Walnut Grove, Mo. — Five-seed Pierce City and 6-seed Omaha, Ark. secured spots in the Walnut Grove Holiday Classic Tournament semifinals with wins Thursday night. Full recaps of both games can be found below.
Pierce City coasts to easy victory in Walnut Grove Tournament
You can call it a minor upset on paper, but there was no doubt about who was the better team on Thursday as the No. 5 seed Pierce City Lady Eagles (6-2) blitzed fourth-seeded Ash Grove (5-4) by a final of 70-43 in quarterfinal play of the Walnut Grove Girls Holiday Classic.
Pierce City charged out to an early 19-8 after the first period of play and managed to outscore the Lady Pirates in every quarter, thanks in large part to an impressive ball-sharing showcase by head coach Rob Guerin’s club.
“We definitely work on getting the ball moved whether it’s through penetration or pass,” Guerin said after the quarterfinal win. “We definitely like ball reversals. A lot of our offense doesn’t really work very well if we don’t get the ball reversed, so they know that they have to move the ball pretty much corner to corner if they want to be successful.”
During many of Pierce City’s offensive possessions in the contest, the basketball seemed to never touch the hardwood as the Lady Eagles looked for the best opportunity at an easy basket – quickly sharing the sugar and keeping Ash Grove guessing who would be the one to try and cash in.
“None of them are selfish,” said Guerin about his players, “We run plays, and whoever gets open and whoever has the best shot, we’ll take the best shot. It doesn’t matter who it is.”
On Thursday, it was junior Ragan Blinzler who found herself with the majority of scoring opportunities – tallying a team-high 20 points after fellow junior Belle Golubski dropped in 31 points just five days earlier.
Despite Blinzler’s commendable effort, the day began rather ominously for the 5-foot-5 junior as her practice shots regularly failed to find the bottom of the net. Luckily for the Lady Eagles, Blinzler found her stroke just in time.
“Whenever I came out during warmups, I wasn’t hitting the broad side of the barn,” Blinzler said. “I just kept shooting and, finally, they started going in.”
Sophomore Kendyl Hayward came up big for Pierce City with 17 points of her own, while Golubski, Saturday’s hero, finished with 11.
“We just need to keep working hard as a team,” Blinzler added. “We need to open things up for each other and support each other. That’s the big thing.”
In the loss, Ash Grove’s Mallory Keith collected 23 points to lead all scorers. Keith made three 3-pointers and bagged 10 of her points in the final quarter.
Pierce City moves on to play host and top-seeded Walnut Grove on Tuesday, while Ash Grove takes on Verona on Tuesday in the fifth-place bracket.
Pierce City – 19 18 16 17 – 70
Ash Grove – 8 9 14 12 – 43
Pierce City – Ragan Blinzler 20, Kendyl Hayward 17, Belle Golubski 11, Kayla Portillo 7, Christine Stellwagen 6, Libbey Strickler 5, Emily Drollinger 2, Kristen Jones 2
Ash Grove – Mallory Keith 23, Sydnee Cashio 7, Stefani Duncan 7, Patsy Gorski 2, Riley Hammons 2, Kennedi Climer 2
Coffelt’s 38 leads Omaha (Ark.) to shootout win over Fordland
In a game that featured 25 3-pointers and 131 total points, the No. 6 seed Omaha Lady Eagles outlasted third-seeded Fordland by a final of 67-64 in the quarterfinal round of the Walnut Grove Girls Holiday Classic on Thursday.
14 of those shots from downtown belonged to the victorious Lady Eagles, including an astounding six 3-balls in the second quarter alone.
But according to head coach Jimmy Lincoln, the hot shooting from outside should come as no surprise to anyone.
“We usually shoot the ball that way,” Lincoln said. “We’ve had some girls step up and we shot the ball well tonight. We really did.”
Nobody stepped up quite like Omaha senior Paige Coffelt, who knocked down seven treys on the way to a superb 38-point performance.
Dealing with injury issues early in the season, the Lady Eagles have turned to Coffelt on several occasions to carry the team when they’ve needed a spark. On Thursday, she brought a full array of fireworks.
“She wants the ball at the right time,” Lincoln said of Coffelt. “I’ve seen that performance out of her a couple times now. Sometimes we’ve been in games where she could have went for that, but we didn’t need her to. It was a good night for her.”
For Coffelt, having such success on the night boiled down to carrying the right mental approach.
“I think [having confidence] is one of the things that helped me,” Coffelt said following the win. “I’ve been weak with my confidence and just hitting the first couple of shots really helped. That was a big key in this game.”
With 1:10 left to go in the game, it was another Lady Eagle, junior Taylor Withrow, who came up with one more big shot as she hit a clutch 3-ball to put Omaha up 63-61 and left them with the advantage the rest of the way.
“Everybody is going to talk about the night that Paige had, but Taylor Withrow hit a huge three,” added Lincoln. “That kind of forced Fordland to start looking at doing something else.”
On the other side, a young Fordland squad received a great showing from freshman Abi Southard, who racked up 28 points. Danielle Bailey and Brooke Hyder contributed with 15 and 11, respectively, but in the end, there was just too much coming from Coffelt and Omaha.
“When a team shoots the way that they were shooting, there’s not a whole lot you can do,” Fordland head coach Kevin McDaris noted. “I thought the girls fought really hard.”
Omaha will square off with No. 2 seed Hartville on Tuesday in the tourney semis. Fordland tangles with Hermitage on Tuesday in the fifth-place bracket.
Omaha – 12 20 11 24 – 67
Fordland – 11 15 16 22 – 64
Omaha – Paige Coffelt 38, Taylor Withrow 12, Macie Arnold 6, Cassidy Yocham 4, Jasmine McClellan 4, Kendall Atchison 3
Fordland – Abi Southard 28, Danielle Bailey 15, Brooke Hyder 11, Emily Whiteford 6, Jaiden Suter 4