Oran girls basketball recover from slow start to win district

Friday, February 24, 2017
Oran's Brianna Stause carries the first-place plaque as her team walks off the court after defeating Chaffee in the Class 2 District 2 championship game Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 in Perryville, Missouri.
Fred Lynch

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- It was a perfect start for the Chaffee girls basketball team. It broke Oran's full-court defensive pressure, drew fouls and forced the Eagles out of their trademark 1-3-1 press.

But then Oran showed why it had already beaten the Red Devils three times this season.

Despite dropping back defensively, the top-seeded Eagles generated 21 turnovers, got out in transition and finally sparked an offense that had been stagnant for a quarter and a half, running away with a 62-48 victory in the Class 2 District 2 championship Thursday night at Perry Park Center.

A 22-20 game at halftime, Oran went on a 15-3 run to begin the third quarter and never looked back.

It was a fourth straight district title for the Eagles. They will look to improve on last season's finish and earn a berth in a state quarterfinal when they take on District 1 champion Puxico in a sectional matchup Wednesday at Jackson High School. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Oran's Leah Cauble chases after the ball between Chaffee's Bridgett Swinford, left, and Madeline Hendrix during the second quarter of the Class 2 District 2 championship Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 in Perryville, Missouri.
Fred Lynch

"This time of year, a win's a win," Oran coach Ethan Evans said. "To get out of here with a victory and be able to continue our season, that's important. I didn't feel like we played our best effort, but Chaffee had a lot to do with it. I thought they came out well prepared. We're happy to survive and advance."

The decisive push was sparked by the Eagles' transition game and a more aggressive offensive approach, led by Leah Cauble. After scoring just three points in the first quarter and 11 in the first half, the sophomore poured in 24 after the break, finishing with 35 points, five assists and four steals.

Cauble was 9 of 14 from the field and 16 of 18 from the free-throw line. Oran was 20 of 26 from the line as a team, but just 1 of 3 in the first quarter.

"They were calling a tight game, the refs were, and anytime that happens you need to get to the basket and try to get to the free-throw line," Evans said. "[Cauble] finally did that in the latter stages of the game. You've got to recognize that early, and she could have shot a lot more free throws than she did tonight."

Even as early foul trouble forced Oran (25-3) to shift into a more conservative defensive scheme than it would like, the tweak had an unexpected result -- second-seeded Chaffee (18-10) saw an increase in turnovers.

The Red Devils had 15 turnovers in the middle two quarters.

"It's funny, we've kind of been like that all year," Chaffee coach Andrew Boone said. "We've done a decent job against the press all year, and then we get across half court, and I don't know what it is. Half-court offense, we turn it over. It's the opposite of what you'd expect.

Oran's Jessica Long tangles with Chaffee's Grace Knudtson during the second quarter of the Class 2 District 2 championship game Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 in Perryville, Missouri.
Fred Lynch

"We knew going in they were going to use the 1-3-1 press, it's their defensive bread and butter. We worked on breaking it all week and they did a phenomenal job. ... They backed out of it and it ended up being a bad thing for us. They got back, clogged up the paint and made it difficult for us to score after that."

Kylie Wilhite led Chaffee with 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Grace Knutson added eight points and Katie Glueck had six points and nine boards.

The Red Devils finished 16 of 42 (38.1 percent) from the floor.

Brianna Stause scored nine points for Oran before fouling out with 1 minute, 37 seconds left in the game. Kaylee Payne found herself in early foul trouble and finished with seven points.

The Eagles were 19 of 43 (44.2 percent) from the floor.

Oran grabbed an early lead, up by as much as five in the first quarter, but Chaffee was able to push through the Eagles' defensive press, take contact and get the top seed in foul trouble early.

While Oran's offense remained stagnant and passive, Knutson converted a pair of free throws with 22 seconds left in the period and the game went into the second quarter tied at 12.

It was more of the same early in the second, and a pair of offensive rebounds led to three looks at the basket for Chaffee before Knutson finally put her side on top, 16-15, with 5:27 on the clock. It was the first lead of the game for the Red Devils since 1 minute, 19 seconds into the contest.

"We had some fouls on some key players, and we had to come out of our normal defense and couldn't press," Evans said. "We never did go back to the press because the way we were playing it was hurting us more than it was helping us tonight. But we did enough to get through it."

A 6-0 swing capped by a Glueck putback earned a 20-15 lead for Chaffee, but as the Red Devils began to turn the ball over, the Eagles were able to get out in transition, where Cauble scored five straight points to knot things up before Mackenzie Graviett sank two free throws to cap a 7-0 run and put Oran on top 22-20 at halftime.

Oran opened the third quarter with renewed vigor and pushed to a double-digit lead, 33-23, as Cauble found Jessie Long rolling to the basket for a layup at the 4:37 mark of the period.

During the run, the Red Devils went 6 minutes, 23 seconds without a field goal.

By the end of the third, Oran led 39-25.

Chaffee went point-for-point in the fourth quarter, but got no closer than 12 points, 58-46, with 1:25 left.

Cauble scored 16 points for Oran in the final period, including going 8 of 8 from the free-throw line.

Despite the loss, it was a positive season for Chaffee, which won eight more games than a year ago and is set to return its entire rotation.

"I can't be happier," Boone said. "We're a starting five of juniors and sophomores, and the girls that come off the bench are all sophomores. We set out to make it here, we got here and we made it a heck of a district championship game."

For Oran, the hard work is just beginning as a sectional against Puxico looms in less than a week.

"It's important for building the future, just to be able to get another district title and set the school record for wins again," Evans said. "But we want more. We want to go deeper. We want to add a few more wins on to that record. That's what we're shooting for."

Chaffee128523--48
Oran12101723--62

CHAFFEE (48) -- Bailey Wiseman 1, Mary Beth Knutson 4, Kylie Wilhite 24, Mattison Cline 3, Katie Glueck 6, Grace Knutson 8, Madeline Hendrix 2. FG 16, FT 12-16, F 23. (3-pointers: Wilhite 3, Cline. Fouled out: Cline.)

ORAN (62) -- Brianna Stause 9, Kaylee Payne 7, Leah Cauble 35, Jessie Long 6, Claire Ramsey 1, Mackenzie Graviett 4. FG 19, FT 20-26, F 18. (3-pointers: Stause 2, Payne, Cauble. Fouled out: Stause.)

[Editor's note: Correction made to appropriately reflect Oran's four straight district championships.]

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