By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
MARIONVILLE – Ash Grove senior guard Kennedi Climer talked about “owning the court.” And, that’s exactly what the Lady Pirates did Saturday night as they defended their Lady Comet Classic championship with a 65-41 win over Spokane.
“Being a senior, you have the goal set of achieving more than you did last year,” Climer said. “Coming back and winning this tournament was big for us.”
The Lady Pirates, who improved to 13-4, created offense with their full-court press resulting in 11 steals for the game.
“Coming in, we knew that (Spokane) was post-heavy and that we were going to have to own it up at the top of the court and give them pressure,” said Climer, who was responsible for four of the team’s steals and led Ash Grove with 21 points. “That was our game plan – working together and getting those steals and looking up the court for who’s up at the basket.”
And, it started in the first quarter as Ash Grove picked up four steals and used a 10-0 run sparked by a Khloe Moad baseline 3-pointer, a 3 from the wing by Climer and a Moad steal that she took coast-to-coast for a layup.
The Lady Pirates’ length and pressure defense caused problems for the Lady Owls most of the night.
“They’re a really good team, and they’re good at applying pressure,” Spokane coach Garet Nunan said. “We struggled initiating our half-court offense, where I think we had advantages over them. They did a good job of doing that, and we did a poor job of making the adjustments that we needed to make to really capitalize on anything.”
Spokane was able to make a little bit of a run at the Lady Pirates in the third quarter with the cousin-combo of Paige Tate and Leandra Bell.
“They work really well together,” Nunan said. “It’s something that’s progressed through the season, that we get a good high-low going. When we broke that press, we were able to handle (Ash Grove) half-court-wise. The problem gets to be when they play a four-out, one-in offense, and then we have to guard out with four guards, so it’s a little bit of a catch-22.”
Tate, who recently collected her 1,000th rebound, led all scorers with 22 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Nunan expects the Lyon College signee to reach 1,500 points this season.
In the fourth quarter, Ash Grove caught fire, outscoring Spokane (9-7) 23-12 with six of those points being the direct result of Lady Pirates steals.
“That’s a big emphasis of our game,” Ash Grove coach Bryan Dean said. “We try to play to our strengths and our strength is we’re pretty athletic. With the program now, we’re not just six-deep, at times we can play nine. There are athletes on the bench waiting to come in. That’s what’s been awesome, but in the end, you’ve got to play to your strengths – our athleticism, try to keep the tempo pushing. And, once we get in the half-court, play to our strengths and move the ball and find the gaps.”
A big key to Ash Grove’s ability to press the entire game is finally having a healthy roster.
“This is actually the first time that we’ve been full-go,” Dean said. “That’s what’s been the missing piece. The competition is building in practice now, they’re playing for spots and it’s fun. They’re starting to learn that it matters what we do in practice.”
Moad, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, did a little bit of everything for the Lady Pirates on Saturday night, scoring 20 points, pulling down eight rebounds, blocking shots, as well as adjusting others, and picking up two steals and several deflections.
“Kennedi is our general, she’s our foundation, and she has to lead us,” Dean said, “Sometimes, it’s not scoring, it’s being out there and leading. With Khloe, if she’s rolling, with her motor and her length, she can get a lot of deflections. People are always thinking about her on the defensive end.”
The Lady Pirates now prepare for Southwest Conference play as they travel to Sarcoxie on Monday. The tournament title gives them the momentum they need heading into the conference portion of their schedule.
“It puts fuel in you and gets you ready to play,” Climer said. “Going into conference, you want to get the conference wins to get the conference title. I think this gives us a lot of fire to go into it and own the court.”
Lady Comet Classic
ASH GROVE 65, SPOKANE 41
ASH GROVE 12-16-14-23—65
SPOKANE (9-7) – Micayla McClure 6, Raylen Wallace 6, Josie Jordan 4, Paige Tate 22, Leandra Bell 2, Madi Bonzer 1.
ASH GROVE (13-4) – Brittany Gilliland 9, Khloe Moad 20, Kennedi Climer 21, Emma Eagleburger 10, Riley Hammons 3, Emma McClelland 2.
Third place – Marionville 53, Crane 45
Fifth place – Billings 46, Aurora 42
Seventh place – Purdy 64, Diamond 23
All-Tournament Team – Elizabeth Martin, Aurora; Ellie Creasey, Aurora; Bailey Groves, Billings; Bella Harter, Billings; Zoe Reel, Crane; Kelsie Grimm, Marionville; Payden Blevins, Marionville; Paige Tate, Spokane; Raylen Wallace, Spokane; Brittany Gilliland, Ash Grove; Khloe Moad, Ash Grove; Kennedi Climer, Ash Grove; Emma Eagleburger, Ash Grove.