Judd powers West Plains Class 5 state championship

By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

Ashton Judd and her Lady Zizzer teammates may need a few days for the new label to sink in.

West Plains: 2022 state basketball champions.

“I don’t really know what to say. I’m kind of stunned,” said Judd, with the championship trophy resting in front of her on the interview podium, wrapped in netting.

West Plains’s preseason dreams turned into reality Saturday afternoon.

The Lady Zizzers defeated Whitfield 50-37 in the Class 5 girls Show-Me Showdown championship game at JQH Arena.

That makes two state championships overall for West Plains, which also placed first in 1998.

“These girls have been on a mission all year, since the end of last season,” said West Plains coach Scott Womack. “They’ve had a target on their back. They just seem to thrive on it.”

Womack added: “They never quit. They just keep fighting.”

The outcome avenged West Plains’s loss against Whitfield in the 2021 Class 5 state title game.

West Plains trailed only once in the rematch – 2-0 – and bounced back strong after Whitfield erased a 10-point deficit in the second half.

“Going into the game, we had all the motivation we needed,” Judd said. “We lost in the same game, to the same team, last year. And personally, this would be my last game in my West Plains jersey with my teammates and coaches.”

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF THE GAME

Judd, a Mizzou commit, was the best player on the floor from start to finish.

She led all players with 30 points and 11 rebounds. She went 14-for-17 at the free throw overall, including 11 straight makes in the final 3:22 to help West Plains seal its victory.

“I think anybody watching could see that in her mind, she was determined to win today,” said Whitfield coach Michael Slater. “She was willing to put the team on her back. If they were going to lose, it would be on her back.”

West Plains’s matchup zone – fueled by competitive, unheralded players like Georgia Osborn, Zoey Williams and Olivia Lawson – stymied Whitfield for all but one quarter.

West Plains led 14-7 after the first quarter and 24-15 at halftime. West Plains outscored Whitfield by 11 in the fourth.

“We’ve talked about it all year: It’s a team effort,” Womack said. “I know we have one player who’s really, really good. But we have a lot of players who are competitive and really good. They compete. They compete in practice and every day. They’re just winners.”

Whitfield finally made its run in the third quarter, drawing even at 29-all on Tkiyah Nelson’s 3-pointer. JaNyla Bush and Brooklyn Rhodes scored 14 and 13, respectively, to lead Whitfield.

West Plains didn’t cave.

Judd’s basket gave the Lady Zizzers a 31-29 lead entering the fourth. West Plains stretched its lead to 39-29 before Bush’s 3-pointer with 3:10 left cut the margin to seven.

“I don’t think we ever panicked,” Womack said. “We settled down. We wanted the leading going into that fourth quarter this year, as opposed to last year when we were trailing. It’s hard to catch up against them.”

Osborn gave West Plains an early lift with her outside shooting. She had 11 points and went 3-for-5 on 3-point attempts.

Osborn’s third trey banked in off the glass, causing both player and head coach to chuckle.

“When I first shot it, I honestly thought it was an air-ball. I thought, ‘Oh no,’” Osborn said. “When it hit the backboard and went in, I looked at (Womack) and looked at everybody else. I just had to laugh myself. You don’t ever want to do that in a game.”

But as teammate Allyssa Joyner pointed out: “Hey, three points is three points.”

West Plains shot 15-for-37 from the field overall and out-rebounded Whitfield 33-26. The Lady Zizzers had a decisive edge at the free throw line, going 16-for-22 compared to Whitfield’s 2-for-7.

“We had to lock down on defense and knew who the key players were on Whitfield that we needed to stop,” Osborn said. “I think our defensive effort was phenomenal tonight.”

Judd graduates as the lone senior on West Plains’s state-title winning team.

It’s not yet known if this was Womack’s West Plains finale as well.

Womack has coached the Lady Zizzers for over 30 years and was at the helm for their previous state title in 1998.

“When you win one in your fifth or sixth year of coaching you think, ‘Oh, I’m going to be back here all the time. This is easy,’” he said. “We finally made it back last year. It was nice. It seems like these last two years I’ve enjoyed it a lot more.

“I’m just enjoying this win and this season for now. I’m happy for the girls. We’ll see what’s next.”

West Plains 50, Whitfield 37
Whitfield 7 8 14 8 — 37
West Plains 14 10 7 19 — 50

Whitfield (24-4 overall) – JaNyla Bush 14, Brooklyn Rhodes 13, Treazure Jackson 4, Tkiyah Nelson 3, Britney Rhodes 3
West Plains (27-4 overall) – Ashton Judd 30, Georgia Osborn 11, Olivia Lawson 4, Allyssa Joyner 3, Kaylea Dixon 2

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