By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Nixa Lady Eagles played liked the No. 1 seed that they are in routing the Waynesville Lady Tigers 78-31 in a White Division semifinal of the Pink and White Lady Classic on Wednesday evening at Kickapoo.
Nixa, which improved to 9-2, quickly jumped on top as Macie Conway scored the Lady Eagles’ first eight points on their way to a 22-0 lead early in the first quarter.
“We had a game plan and our kids executed it perfectly,” Nixa coach Jennifer Perryman said. “They did everything that we talked about and everything we asked for. Everyone on the bench was in tune, everyone on the floor was in tune. We had a game plan defensively, and they carried it out. We had a game plan offensively, and they carried it out. And that’s what we’ve really kind of been struggling with is finding that flow. But I think tonight we really found that, sharing the ball and making the extra pass and sticking to doing what we do.”
A key part of Nixa’s game plan was finding a way to shut down Waynesville’s 1-2 punch in senior Naudia Evans (Grand Canyon University signee) and freshman Breona Hurd (ranked in the Top 25 in the nation by ESPN.) The two had combined for 106 of the Lady Tigers’ 136 points in their first two games of the tournament, and had combined to outscore Waynesville’s previous four opponents prior to the tournament.
On Wednesday, Nixa held the duo to 21 points and forced Hurd into early foul trouble in handing the Lady Tigers their first loss of the season (6-1).
“Our goal was under 25 (points) combined, and I think that’s a very aggressive goal,” Perryman said of limiting Evans and Hurd. “When I subbed my starters, or my top seven, that fourth quarter, our kids coming in had that same expectation. I think Naudia got some wide-open looks on some miscommunications, but our kids dialed in; they locked in.”
And, they were locked in. The Lady Eagles held both Evans and Hurd scoreless in the first quarter and to a combined 10 points in the first half, while taking a 26-3 lead at the end of one and holding a 43-20 advantage going into the locker room.
When Hurd came back in in the second quarter, she provided a spark, scoring seven points and the Lady Tigers went on a 9-0 run to pull a little closer (39-20.) But, Hurd picked up her fourth foul with 1:17 to go in the first half.
Nixa started the second half on a 12-0 run, outscored Waynesville 29-3 in the third quarter and continued to cause problems for the Lady Tigers at both ends of the court. The Lady Eagles forced 28 Waynesville turnovers with its pressure defense, both in the full and half court, and were able to play 11 players to allow the starters a chance to rest.
“We’ve (starters) been sitting,” Macie Conway, who scored a game-high 22 points, said of the tournament format. “If we get up (we can) save legs, especially for tomorrow, because four games (in four days) can be a lot. We’ve been going in in the mornings and going over game plans. And today, it worked pretty well. We were all focused.
“Obviously, shutting down Waynesville’s two best players, Naudia (Evans) and (Breona) Hurd, was pretty much our game plan to start with, but we also had to focus on the others. Getting them shut down and getting our motors going definitely set the pace for the game.”
That combination caused problems for Waynesville from the start of the game.
“The two quick fouls on Breona hurt in the first 30-45 seconds of the game,” Waynesville coach Brittany Matlock said. “You get her on the bench and that kind of takes us out of our flow. But it’s good for us to continue to grow in our competition that we’re playing. We haven’t faced anybody like Nixa. We know we still have a lot to work on, and they’re a great team. Hopefully, we can continue to improve and learn our lessons and go from there.”
Even though the Lady Eagles came out with a blowout win, Perryman says her team still has some work to do.
“We’re still working on decision making,” Perryman said. “We took a step forward tonight and we have a long way to go, but our kids showed some guts tonight. I think they’re finding themselves and sometimes it takes a while. They’re starting to get some confidence in themselves and that’s most important for me.
“I told them the whole time ‘people see you as a one seed, you have to see you.’ What we’ve been saying this week is play like a one seed, and tonight, I think they came in and played like a one seed.”
(1) NIXA 78, (3) WAYNESVILLE 31
Pink and White Lady Classic
(3) WAYNESVILLE (6-1) – Naudia Evans 10, Breona Hurd 11, Toni Durrant 1, Chambre Garcia 2, Astacia Garcia 4, Kaylee Gambill 3.
(1) NIXA (9-2) – Ali Kamies 5, Rhianna Gibbons 9, Katie Kamies 8, Norah Clark 6, Macie Conway 22, Jacy Bray 2, Emma Vincent 2, Sadie Conway 15, Adelyn Weaver 4, Lilly Mahy 3, Hadley Carrisalez 2.
Thursday’s schedule: (Championship) Nixa vs. West Plains, noon at Parkview; (Third place) Waynesville vs. Republic, noon at Kickapoo