LRC: Balanced attack leads aggressive Neelyville to quarterfinal win over Charleston

Neelyville’s Lexi Liau (23) drives against Charleston’s Zakiya Ware (34) during the first quarter in the quarterfinals of the Twin Rivers Lady Royals Christmas Classic on Monday at Broseley.
DEXTER STATESMAN/Kyle Smith

BROSELEY — The top-seeded Neelyville Tigers brought the intensity in the first quarter Monday at the Twin Rivers Lady Royals Classic.

The Tigers utilized an aggressive full-court pressure defense to disrupt eighth-seeded Charleston en route to an 86-27 victory.

Neelyville (7-2) will meet New Madrid County Central in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday. NMCC beat Kennett 47-25 later Monday. Charleston will meet Kennett in a fifth-place semifinal at 3 p.m. Friday.

Despite the lopsided score, Neelyville coach Becky Hale saw plenty of room for improvement.

“We’ve got to keep getting better and better,” Hale said, “like the rebounding, staying in front (and) working to get a better shot. Things like that. That’s what we need to work on.”

The Tigers’ defense not only created turnovers in the first quarter, but they held Charleston to 21 percent (4 of 19) shooting, including 0 for 5 from beyond the arc.

“Defensively, we started out moving our feet,” Hale said. “That’s what we needed to happen because we knew they were quick. We just needed to stay in front.”

Neelyville converted a high percentage of its shot inside, going 9 for 15 (60 percent) on its shots inside the arc.

Makenzi Davis took a feed from Bailey McGruder on the opening tip to give the Tigers a quick 2-0 lead.

McGruder and Payton Reinbott hit back-to-back 3-pointers, Lexi Liau sank a jump shot and Reinbott scored a layup for a 12-0 lead. Seven of the Tigers’ first 12 points came off turnovers.

Charleston (5-1) scored its first points on a layup by Mistavia Murray, which began an 8-3 rally that cut the Tigers’ lead to 15-8.

Jorianna Mixon and Ashanti Jones scored consecutive 3-point plays to finish the run.

Most of Charleston’s offense came in the paint, as it held its own on the boards.

“We were in front a lot of (the) time. Maybe we didn’t block out as good as we need to,” Hale said. “We’re going to have to work on that.”

The Tigers answered with a 15-0 run to take a 30-8 advantage. Liau, Davis and Magruder scored four points each during the stretch that included several point-black misses by Charleston.

Charleston closed the quarter with a fast-break basket by Jones.

Neelyville used runs of 8-0 and 7-2 in the second quarter to take a 53-18 halftime lead and outscored Charleston 29-4 in the third quarter to take an 82-22 advantage into the fourth, where the mercy rule was enacted.

McGruder led a balanced Neelyville attack with 20 points. Reinbott scored 16, Davis 15 and Liau 14.

Jones paced Charleston with 14 points.

Charleston1084527
Neelyville302329486

CHARLESTON — Mixon 1(0) 1-2 3. A. Jones 4(0) 6-11 14. Z. Jones 0. Jackson 1(0) 0-0 2. Murray 2(0) 0-1 4. D. Williams 0. Moore 0. T. Williams 2(0) 0-2 4. Ware 0. Totals 10(0) 7-16 27.

NEELYVILLE — Reinbott 3(2) 4-6 16 McGruder 3(2) 8-10 20. Liau 3(2) 2-2 14. Davis 6(0) 3-4 15. Akers 1(1) 0-0 5. Robinson 0. Griffin 2(0) 2-4 6. Eaker 0. Ennis 0. Moore 1(0) 0-0 2. Scott 1(2) 0-0 8. Hagood 0(0) 0-2 0. Totals 20(9) 19-28 86.

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