By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
WILLARD – The Willard Lady Tigers overcame a sloppy first half by outscoring Camdenton 53-20 in the second half to run away with the Willard Classic title in an 81-56 victory over the Lady Lakers on Saturday night.
“I’m very happy for our kids, very happy,” Willard coach JJ Adamson said of the Lady Tigers’ first Willard Classic title since 2017. “They really work hard. The very special thing about them is that they’re coachable. They are wonderful young ladies who take coaching and try and do what the coaches ask of them, and that’s just a wonderful attribute. They love being a part of a team that loves each other, and it’s really, really fun when you get a group like that.”
Both teams struggled through a rough first half full of missed shots and turnovers. Adamson said his staff tried to lighten the mood at halftime as his Lady Tigers held a slim 28-26 lead.
“We came in and our coaches just tried to make them laugh,” Adamson said. “We told them they had to replace the nets at halftime because we shot it so well, and it was going to take a little bit longer.
“And then, we made a couple adjustments on our press, and we just went back out and shot it, and things turned around for us. We talk to them all the time about creating their own momentum, and they did a good job of that in the second half.”
Willard, which improved to 4-0 on the season, opened the second half with an 8-0 run sparked by back-to-back 3-pointers from senior Ariana Patillo. The Lady Tigers not only picked up the intensity on the offensive end, but on the defensive end, as well.
“Yes, they came out on fire, didn’t they,” Camdenton coach Staci Caffey said of Willard’s second half. “They put on a little shooting exhibition out there. JJ had them ready and the girls were on fire. Bottom line, we’ve got to learn how to take care of the ball. We’re not going to beat anybody with 30 turnovers, so it’s one of those things. That game’s on us and, and I’m not taking anything (away from) Willard, they completely earned that championship.
“This is one of those early tournaments, and the reason you get in tournaments is to see where you’re at what you’ve got to work on. We know what we’ve got to do, so I think our heads are where they need to be and we’ll be ready to go back to the gym and get those worked out.”
The Lady Tigers had five players score in double figures and got some big buckets from sophomore Carolina Crawford, who led her team with 16 points.
“It feels really good being able to play through all this COVID stuff; it really is exciting,” Crawford said. “We’re so thankful just to get in the gym and to be able to pull out this tournament in first place.”
Crawford had struggled some lately but showed no signs of that on Saturday.
“(I’ve worked) to get my focus off me and just really worry about my team and stop thinking about, ‘oh, gosh, you’re doing this wrong,’ and just think about, ‘oh, my team is doing this right,’” Crawford said. “It just helped me get my mind focused and back into it.”
Crawford was joined in double figures by Patillo (15), Jada Holloman (14), Brielle Adamson (13) and Kailyn Washington (12).
“They’re unselfish,” Adamson said of his team. “They come off the bench and they bring an even higher tempo than what we try to play with, with our starters, and it’s just wonderful. I’m very fortunate to be able to be around these kids and around our coaching staff.”
WILLARD 81, CAMDENTON 56
CAMDENTON (2-1) – Mya Hulett 11, Elle Turner 7, Payton Kincaid 18, Olivia Whittgle 10, Charlotte Kurtz 4, Nora Powers 3, Gracie Coffelt 3.
WILLARD (4-0) – Ariana Patillo 15, Jada Holloman 14, Addy Adamson 6, Brielle Adamson 13, Vanessa Wells 2, Kailyn Washington 12, Morgan Hall 3, Carolina Crawford 16.
All-Tournament Team – Mattilyn Walker, Strafford; Abby Peterson, Sullivan; Emma Eagleburger, Ash Grove; Emma Mullings, Strafford; Elle Turner, Camdenton; Payton Kincaid, Camdenton; Kailyn Washington, Willard; Jada Holloman, Willard; Addy Adamson, Willard; Brielle Adamson, Willard.