Jackson girls basketball moves on to Class 5 quarterfinals for first time in a decade

Thursday, March 9, 2017
Jackson players celebrate after the Indians defeated Fort Zumwalt South 69-44 in a Class 5 sectional Wednesday in Hillsboro, Missouri.
Andrew J. Whitaker

HILLSBORO, Mo. -- It's not easy to reach a state quarterfinal. The last decade of futility for the Jackson girls basketball team is a testament to that. But on Wednesday night, the Indians made it look easy.

Jackson led the entire way, blitzing Fort Zumwalt South with its size and athleticism and rolling to a 69-44 victory in a Class 5 sectional at Jefferson College.

The Indians will face St. Joseph's Academy in a quarterfinal matchup 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.

The Angels (19-8) earned a 56-51 victory over McCluer North in another sectional Wednesday night.

Mahaileea Massehy of Jackson fights for the ball with Sofia Popp of Fort Zumwalt South during the class 5 sectionals game between Jackson and Fort Zumwalt South Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at Jefferson College in Hillsboro. Jackson won 69-44.
Andrew J. Whitaker ~ Southeast Missourian

For Jackson, it's the program's first trip to this stage of the playoffs since 2007.

"It's just amazing because we worked so hard to get where we are," Jackson senior Rylee Stafford said. "I felt like my sophomore year, we weren't ready for that sectional game, and then last year we lost districts. So this year it was our goal to win sectionals and say we were a team that went to quarterfinals. Hopefully we can win quarterfinals."

Jackson (22-6) won every phase of the game against the Bulldogs (17-11) on Wednesday, as FZS simply couldn't guard an Indians team that seemed to breeze to the basket.

"I thought we'd have an advantage in the post, and then they were so aggressive [defending] the wings," Jackson coach Tyler Abernathy said. "We've worked the past few days on being able to rip through and attack the basket and being able to step right past that defender. I thought we did a good job of that because they pressure you so hard, and they're so tight to you that if you rip it through and get hip to hip, you've got an alley to the lane. And we made some shots early, and I thought they were reluctant to help. They were just a step late sometimes, which allowed us to get some layups."

Stafford, Abby Hermann and Alexis Allstun each scored 14 points in a characteristically balanced Jackson attack, with Stafford doing it on 6-of-7 shooting while adding six assists.

Jackson girls basketball team celebrate after the class 5 sectionals game between Jackson and Fort Zumwalt South Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at Jefferson College in Hillsboro. Jackson won 69-44.
Andrew J. Whitaker ~ Southeast Missourian

The Indians finished the game 24 of 43 (55.8 percent) from the floor.

"We knew that they were a fast team, and we knew that they would press us. But we also knew we had size," Stafford said. "We knew we'd have to rebound and pass it to the post, and if they doubled on the post, they'd have to pass it out for the 3. And that's what we did."

Things went just as well for Jackson on the defensive end, where it held Fort Zumwalt South to 31.8-percent (14-of-44) shooting and limited Hannah Karl to just one point in the first half and eight overall. Karl entered the game averaging 17 points per game.

"I thought Nikki (Sotak) did a phenomenal job early on of containing [Karl], and then when we brought Mah (Massey) in -- she's a perfect matchup for [Karl]," Abernathy said. "She didn't get any freedom. I thought if we could contain her, we could put some pressure on the other players to make more plays that they're not quite accustomed to, and I think that's kind of what you saw happen."

Madison Schmied paced the Bulldogs with 10 points.

Jackson took control of the game from the opening tip, as Allstun scored 12 seconds in.

The Indians never trailed. They opened up a seven-point advantage midway through the quarter and went into the second period up 16-9.

Fort Zumwalt South had no answer, as Jackson began the second quarter on a 9-0 run, with Stafford scoring seven straight points.

A pair of Massey free throws with 3 minutes, 1 second on the clock made it a 20-point game, and some great ball movement in transition saw Sotak splash a 3 from the left corner to give the Indians a 38-16 lead at halftime.

The Bulldogs showed a little pushback in the opening moments of the third period, as an 8-2 swing pulled Fort Zumwalt South back within 18 points, but Jackson was able to get Allstun isolated in the post, as the Indians quickly stretched the gap again.

By the end of the third quarter, the score was 57-29.

A 3-pointer from Hermann gave Jackson its biggest lead of the game, 66-35, with 2:33 left, and the two teams' substitutes finished out the rest of a result that was a foregone conclusion by that point.

It was more than enough to see the Indians through to a place that, despite the program's tradition, no other Jackson girls team has been for a long time.

"I think their togetherness, their genuine care for one another, just how they attack every day has been phenomenal. I think that's what separates them a little bit," Abernathy said.

"I can't remember the last time we had a bad day. They just come out, and they're consistent with their attitude and consistent with their effort. And they've just been a joy to be around."


FORT ZUMWALT SOUTH (44) -- Emma Poopp 2, Sofia Popp 6, Madison Schmied 10, Hannah Karl 8, Hannah Warnecke 9, Reham Youssef 3, Madalyn Smith 2, Samantha Bradshaw 3, Tierra Daniels 1. FG 14, FT 12-16, F 18. (3-pointers: S. Popp 2, Karl, Youssef. Fouled out: None.)

JACKSON (69) -- Randa Norman 4, Nikki Sotak 8, Rylee Stafford 14, Abby Hermann 14, Alexis Allstun 14, Mah Massey 4, Nicole Humphreys 6, Grace Pehle 2, Kalli Mayfied 3. FG 24, FT 14-21, F 18. (3-pointers: Hermann 3, Sotak 2, Stafford 2. Fouled out: None.)

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