By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
While the outcome of the West Plains Lady Zizzers’ win over Willard in a Pink Division quarterfinal was due, in large part, to their hot first-half shooting, their defense played just as a big of a role in their victory over the Lady Tigers on Friday.
The second-seeded Lady Zizzers held No. 7 Willard to its lowest offensive output of the season in a 68-36 win in the Pink & White Lady Classic at Drury University’s O’Reilly Family Event Center.
“I just thought our defense was really good all day long,” West Plains coach Scott Womack said. “They’ve got such great 3-point shooters. (Coach JJ Adamson) does such a good job of spacing the floor and hitting 3s. I thought our girls did a really good job of covering those up and kind of frustrated them, I thought, on their offensive end.”
But, it was the West Plains offense that got the ball rolling early in the game. After holding a 7-5 lead midway through the first quarter, the Lady Zizzers went on a 14-0 run to close out the period with a 24-7 lead. West Plains, which remained undefeated at 8-0, hit six 3-pointers in the quarter with senior forward Cass Cunningham connecting on three of those.
“You live and die by the 3,” Womack said. “I kept warning them that the 3s are falling right now, but don’t fall in love with it. We’ve got to keep attacking and keep attacking.
“We came out shooting the ball very well. I thought our girls did a good job of distributing the ball and finding the open look and the girls knocked down the shots they needed to, so, that got us off to a quick start.”
And, it didn’t seem to make a difference what type of defense Willard threw at West Plains – zone, man-to-man – the Lady Zizzers found a way to score.
“Ashton Judd does such a good job in the middle of the floor, seeing the floor,” Womack said. “She can knock down a shot, but she sees the floor and gets it to the right people.”
The Lady Zizzers’ offense in the first half came from the 3-point line, but they also converted on 24 of 25 free throws for the game with 18 of those coming in the second half.
“It was really a perimeter game that first half, there weren’t many fouls on either team,” Womack said. “The second half, they went man and I thought we did a good job attacking and getting to the free-throw line and were able to extend the lead.
Adamson acknowledged West Plains’ defense was a big part of his team’s struggles Friday.
“Coach Womack does a great job,” Adamson said. “They deserve a lot of credit, defensively. This was our lowest-scoring output of the year, and that’s due in large part to their defensive effort. Coach Womack does a great job with that matchup zone and it really gave us a bunch of fits today.
“It was similar to yesterday; Catholic kind of got out pretty hot, had a big first quarter with 21 points, and today we gave up 24. The difference in the two basketball games was that yesterday we were able to keep pace, offensively. Today, we were not able to do that and it just kind of got away from us.”
Willard, which suffered its first loss of the season (6-1), was without the services of senior forward Kaitlyn Burson, who saw limited action because of a leg injury.
“She’s such a great kid,” Adamson said. “She’s a real positive leader and when she’s not on the floor, there’s a void – not only play-wise, but leadership-wise, as well. We’re still trying to figure our way out with her being off the floor so much.”
Cunningham led the way for West Plains with 21 points, followed by MacKenzie Brunson with 14 and Judd with 12.
Jada Holloman paced Willard with 10 points.
No. 2 West Plains 68, No. 7 Willard 36
Pink & White Lady Classic
Pink Division – Quarterfinal game
WEST PLAINS 68, WILLARD 36
WEST PLAINS 24-12-18-14—68
WILLARD (6-1) – Ariana Patillo 5, Jada Holloman 10, Megan Mahan 6, Addalyn Adamson 2, Brielle Adamson 9, Morgan Hall 4.
WEST PLAINS (8-0) – MacKenzie Brunson 14, Alli Holesapple 8, Bre Harlan 5, Ashton Judd 12, Cass Cunningham 21, Drew Harris 2, Jade Barry 2, Zoey Williams 4.
Up next: West Plains vs. Clever, 4 p.m., Saturday at O’Reilly Family Event Center; Willard vs. Nixa, 1 p.m., Saturday at O’Reilly Family Event Center