By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Marionville, Mo. — On the strength of a well-balanced, inside-out attack, Ash Grove downed Marionville 68-36 Thursday evening.
Khloe Moad poured in a game-high 25 points to lead a trio of double-figure scorers for the Lady Pirates.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore showcased both size and range, knocking down a trio of 3-pointers in the first half, alone.
Ash Grove head coach Bryan Dean praised Moad’s continued development this season.
“I’ve never settled for [Moad] being just a post,” Dean said. “Like I told her, ‘There’s more than just that block, and you’ve got to take what they give you.’ If you can stretch people on the perimeter, it’s hard to stop that,”
From the opening tip, the Lady Pirates sought to capitalize on a size mismatch over the smaller Marionville squad with ball movement and spacing.
With the Lady Comet defense focused on closing off the lane, opportunities opened up along the perimeter.
Moad proved more than happy to capitalize, scoring Ash Grove’s first 12 points in the quarter and keying a decisive 18-0 run.
After taking a 31-19 at the break, Ash Grove turned in another big performance in the third quarter with 22 points to stretch the lead to 53-32.
Moad was quick to credit her teammates’ versatility and ability to quickly adjust to different scenarios.
“I think it wore them out a little bit realizing that we can play all positions,” Moad said. “I think they kind of expected our posts to be a big thing, but once we got them stretched out, I think we got them a little tired and we’re pretty strong all the way around.”
With Marionville’s guards struggling to adjust and cover all areas of the floor, it didn’t take long for Ash Grove’s other weapons to make an impact, as well — particularly Emma Eagleburger and Kennedi Climer.
Eagleburger, a 5-foot-9 junior, took full advantage of the Lady Comets’ adjustments and scored 14 of her 18 points in the second half.
Dean credited his squad’s patience and willingness to take whatever was given to them during the game.
“[Moad] is a stretch, and she’s a mismatch, just like Emma Eagleburger is on the block,” Dean said. “We’ve got a really good, balanced offense, and I think, at times — if everything’s tempo, running and going right — we can have four to five double-digit scorers if we have to.”
Climer, a 5-foot-4 senior, added 10 points in the victory, including a pair of 3-pointers.
For Marionville head coach Paden Grubbs, limiting the 1,000-point scorer’s effectiveness from outside was a primary concern.
“Our game plan going in was to limit the Climer girl from three and try to just pack it in,” Grubbs said. “I think the only weakness that they might have is their 3-point shooting and, tonight, they were not weak in that area. Anytime you have a girl at 6-1 that can get you out there and leave the middle open for Eagleburger to work, it just makes it difficult.”
Junior Alyssa White led the Lady Comets with 11 points.
The Ash Grove win breaks up a three-way tie at the top of the Southwest Conference — with Marionville and Miller — and secures at least a share of the title.
While the Lady Pirates were happy to capture a conference championship, the battle-tested squad is focused on bigger goals.
“It’s huge,” Climer said of the title. “I think we need the momentum behind us. We have a tough district, so having this conference championship will light a fire. I think this just tops it off for us and gives us more momentum going into districts.”
Up next for Ash Grove (18-5) is a trip to Clever on Thursday, Feb. 18. Marionville (12-9) travels to Pierce City next Monday, Feb. 17.
Varsity Final: Ash Grove – 68, Marionville – 36
Ash Grove 24 07 22 15 — 68
Marionville 07 12 13 04 — 36
Ash Grove scoring: Khloe Moad 25, Emma Eagleburger 18, Kennedi Climer 10, Brittany Gilliland 6, Briley Bagley – 4, Riley Hammons 3, Olivia Steimel – 2
Marionville scoring: Alyssa White – 11, Bre Schapeler – 8, Payden Blevins – 7, Kaylee Neveln – 4, Kelsie Grimm – 4, Olivia Hopkins – 2
JV Final: Ash Grove – 8, Marionville – 7 (2 Quarters)