By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
NIXA – The West Plains Lady Zizzers used the cushion of an early 11-0 run and their advantage on the boards to capture the Nixa Invitational Tournament title with a 59-47 victory over tournament host, Nixa, on Saturday afternoon.
Nixa jumped out to a 5-0 lead to open the game before West Plains hit its first basket at the 4:42 mark. The Lady Eagles went up 9-5 on a 3-pointer by Ali Kamies, but the Lady Zizzers started their 11-0 run on two free throws by Ashton Judd and three straight 3-pointers from the baseline by Allyssa Joyner to close out the first quarter for a 16-9 lead.
“(Nixa) came out with a little junk defense on Ashton, which we’re seeing a lot this year, and we know that other people have to score at that point and not put it all on one person,” said West Plains coach Scott Womack, shortly after the team showered him with water. “Allyssa stepped in and hit basically three 3s there in the first quarter, and we know she can do that. So, her doing that really kind of got us some momentum there.
“And I just really thought our defense from that point on was really good and made them work for everything. We wanted to cut out their transition, and they may have had two or four points off transition, and I just thought we did a really good job of taking care of it for the most part and getting the quality shots we needed. I knew once we got the lead down there midway through the fourth quarter, we needed to get to the foul line and make some free throws.”
Kamies kept the Lady Eagles within striking distance by scoring 11 second-quarter points, including three 3-pointers. But on the heels of that first quarter, West Plains was able to take a 31-22 lead into the locker room.
Nixa coach Jennifer Perryman said a “lack of attack mentality” has been a struggle for the Lady Eagles (13-4).
“The mind-set from the beginning again,” Perryman said of the difference on Saturday. “We know that’s been our Achilles’ heel; adapting and adjusting in game has been a struggle. We struggled really executing some of the things we’d kind of talked about, and I think that just comes from that first-quarter mind-set.
“Obviously, they’re very well-coached and a very good team. You’ve got one of the best players in the state on their team (Judd), but I just think a little bit of our mind-set has got to change. We’ve got to have a little bit more consistency and a little bit more depth.”
After the first quarter, West Plains outscored Nixa by only five points (43-38) over the next three quarters. But the Lady Zizzers, who improved to 14-2 on the season, scored 11 of their 17 fourth-quarter points from the free-throw line and used their advantage on the boards by outrebounding the Lady Eagles 32-7, keyed by Judd’s 19.
“Believe me, ‘Judd’ and ‘offensive rebound’ came out of our mouths several times in the last couple of days, even when we were preparing to play them two weeks ago when it got snowed out,” Perryman said. “So, it’s not anything new and that’s been an issue. I thought we did a phenomenal job rebounding last night against Webster Groves, but (West Plains) even got a couple of offensive rebounds on free throws – that should never happen.”
Judd, who finished with a game-high 23 points and 19 rebounds, also dished out four assists while being double- and even tripled-teamed most of the game.
“I just knew that our other girls had to step up this game and they definitely did,” Judd said. “Making outside shots, making the right passes and handling the ball against Nixa’s pressure is a big deal, and I think we did really well on that; just trying to find the open man.
“I’ve always told people that scoring’s not everything. You can always play defense, you can always rebound, get deflections and just anything helps.”
The first scheduled matchup between the two teams was snowed out on Jan. 6, so they will see each other again in one week (Jan. 29) on West Plains’ home court.
“We kind of had this last year,” Womack said. “We played them in the Pink and White (a triple-overtime win for West Plains), a week later we saw them up here and they got us. So, they’ll be out for revenge and we know that, so we’ll have to be ready to go.”
WEST PLAINS 59, NIXA 47
Nixa Invitational Championship
WEST PLAINS 16-15-11-17—59
WEST PLAINS (15-2) – Zoey Williams 2, Allyssa Joyner 22, Ashton Judd 23, Olivia Lawson 3, Kaylea Dixon 3, Georgia Osborn 6.
NIXA (13-4) – Sadie Conway 7, Ali Kamies 18, Macie Conway 6, Rhianna Gibbons 16.
Third place: Webster Groves 45, Notre Dame-Cape Girardeau 40
Fifth place: Republic 66, Park Hill South 55
Seventh place: Norfork, Ark., 61, Carnahan Prep 25