By Jordan Burton
Springfield, MO – In the Pink and White Lady Classic the goal is to move to the right and play as many games in O’Reilly Family Event Center as possible.
For the second year in a row Fair Grove earned that opportunity, topping Carthage 59-37 in the opening round White Division of the Pink and White Lady Classic on Tuesday behind an incredible defensive effort.
The Lady Eagles hounded Carthage for 32 minutes, using pressure defense to force quick shots and turnovers. The Lady Tigers failed to score more than 10 points in any of the first three quarters.
“I feel like we’re pretty athletic, especially with those five we started today so we can kind of get after it on defense,” said Fair Grove coach Jenny Talbert. “I knew that it would probably be pretty quiet in here and that we would need to do something to get ourselves going early and it allowed us to be aggressive from the start.”
Fair Grove led 11-10 at the end of the first quarter, but a monster second frame helped blow the game wide open. Sophomores Harley Maxwell and Lexie Sutherland scored six points each in the second quarter, helping the Lady Eagles outscore Carthage 24-6.
Carthage managed just one field goal in the quarter.
“We didn’t get our feet set and their rotations were good and it forced us to take quick shots or shots out of rhythm,” said Carthage coach Chad Jones. “They have some length and they know how to utilize their assets.”
Talbert has just one senior on her roster, but Fair Grove has been able to maintain its rich basketball tradition, despite starting two sophomores and a freshman.
“We’ve had nine games now so they’re young but they’ve had several varsity games so they need to start playing like varsity basketball players,” said Talbert. “They’re really embracing that and the nerves are starting to go away. They’re having a lot of fun and growing and that’s great to see.”
Sophomore Alana Findley finished with a game-high 15 points. Maxwell added 14 and Taylor Bell chipped in 12. Carthage was paced by Kensey Sageser’s 13 points. Kenya Medlock added 12.
Fair Grove gets a shot at defending Class 5 state champion Kickapoo, a 73-43 winner over Mount Vernon.
“This tournament is so much fun because you get to play bigger schools or teams you may see later in the season,” said Talbert. “We’re happy to be in it and happy to be playing in O’Reilly again tomorrow night.”