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A mercy, mercy Classic day one
BROSELEY - The first day of the 25th Lady Royals Christmas Classic basketball tournament was going to be a situation where many of the top seeds would have a chance to ease into competition with relative ease, but the main objective would be to play at a high level to get things started on a positive note.
All told, that was more rule than the exception as five of the eight games were wound down by the mercy-rule clock when a lead reaches 35 points in the second half, the time ticks away unabated until the margin falls below that threshold. Another game avoided a running clock yet was decided by a big margin.
No. 1 Doniphan and No. 2 Dexter, looking to head back to the final and a potential rematch of last year’s final won by the Donettes, both took care of business with clinical execution – even with some minor blips thrown in – to advance to Monday’s quarterfinals.
The Donettes played to their No. 1 seed by beating No. 16 Hayti, using a dominant first half of defense (forcing 21 turnovers) and shooting (58 percent) to lead 37-10 at halftime in route to a 59-19 win.
Kenzie Redus scored 19 points, Brook Klepzig added 15 points and McKenna Monaghan added nine points for the dominant Donettes.
The mercy rule started a bit earlier than expected, with the clock rolling midway through the third quarter.
“There were times where it was 9 a.m., but for the most part – for our first group – and some of the second group, they did their jobs really well today: I was happy with it,” Doniphan head coach Adam Epps said. “Everybody got to play and our main players got to rest, which is good because we play like five games in seven days (including Thursday’s win over Kennett).”
Doniphan will face No. 8 Portageville who beat No. 9 Kelly 74-48.
Dexter also had a similar situation although in a much different incantation. The Lady Bearcats were set to play No. 15 Cairo (IL), who stepped out last minute due to illness, so in came the Doniphan JV team.
The little Donettes actually scored the first bucket of the game to go up 2-0 and had a number of other opportunities to add to that total, but Dexter and head coach Eric Sitze took control and rolled out to a 39-2 halftime lead that ultimately became a 58-13 win, with the mercy clock at play for most of the last 16 minutes.
Dexter was led by Kate Nichols who scored all 12 of her points in the first half, while Karis Kennedy also added 12 points and Allison Turnbo and Caitlin Giles added 10 points apiece.
“We didn’t know we weren’t going to play Cairo until breakfast (Saturday),” Giles said. “We weren’t really prepared at all but knew we had to take care of business and spread the gap out as much as possible.
“We have been looking at this tournament all season. We want to get to the championship game this year and win it. We have been wanting to become a better end-of-the-game team.”
Dexter head coach Eric Sitze said that tournaments like this give his team a sense of this type of play and prepares one better for the postseason.
“When you are a higher seed over a lower seed, you want to see good energy from your kids and make sure they aren’t overlooking anybody. You try to keep them focused and I thought we did really good at that today. We played with a lot of intensity and energy and didn’t overlook them.
“We played a really good, solid first half. Our goal is to get to the final, but you can’t look that far ahead. We have (Kennett/Twin Rivers) coming up and they feel like they have a chance to beat us. You already have a target on your back when you are a higher seed. The parity in the tournament is really good. It was hard to seed the middle of the pack.”
Dexter was set to play Kennett who won the last game of the night 44-38 over the host Lady Royals after seeing a big lead threatened late. Hannah Bader scored 13 points while Charly Johnson added seven points and Amelia Douglas finished with eight points to lead Twin Rivers.
It took a while for No. 4 Neelyville’s press to really take effect, but when it did, rivals and No. 13 seed Naylor couldn’t sustain what had been some solid play, falling 65-37 to the Lady Tigers.
Leading the winning Lady Tigers were led by Parker Ernst (17 points), Jade Crosswhite (16 points), and Ella Eaker (15 points).
“We came out moving out feet in the second half and in the first half, it was more of us watching the ball a little bit and not moving with it and making them do what we wanted them to do,” Neelyville head coach Becky Hale said. “In the second half, we were a little bit sharper. When we figure out that defense is played off the ball and not just on the ball, we’d be a lot better.
“We came out a little stronger and a little more together with our defensive effort and that was good to see as well. If you are playing defense harder, it’s easier to score.”
Neelyville advanced to Monday’s quarterfinal against No. 5 Piggott (AR).
“(Fatigue) was a part of it, part of it is we are still not healthy,” Naylor head coach Logan Foster said. “At the end of the day, you still have to catch the ball and you have to move the ball.
“And Neelyville is pretty good. We do some good stuff and we are playing some young kids who are starting to learn. It’s hard when you get beat like that, but we will get better.”
The first quarter saw Naylor break the Neelyville press religiously with no dribble, passing breaks, but a number of attacks went wasted with missed shots. The Lady Tigers held on to the lead from the start and slowly turned the screws in leading 33-21 at halftime.
Then, Neelyville came out fired up and more efficient on both sides of the floor after intermission and began to take control at a higher level.
The Lady Tigers scored five quick points out of the locker room to start the second half and led 47-29 heading into the final quarter.
Eaker noted that beating a local rival is always the nice cherry on top of a win.
“We are always pretty rivalry-like so it is always a good game,” Eaker said. “We came out and weren’t as together as we should have been. We had morning practices all week so a 10:30 a.m. game shouldn’t have affected us. We figured it out.
“We got to go our hardest – this is my late (LRCC) for me. We have to work together no matter what and not rely on just one person.”
Harley Sullivan led Naylor with 23 points.
No. 3 East Carter used an incredible height advantage and a lethal press to go up 32-5 after the first quarter and the Lady Redbirds cruised to a 75-38 win.
The lead blew up to 52-16 at halftime and the Lady Redbirds were into a Monday quarterfinal against Cape Central/Holcomb.
Leading the victorious Lady Redbird effort were Breanna Dohlemman (24 points), Brooklyn (Kearbey 23 points), Honna Brown (11 points) and Parker Golden (10 points).
Brydon Maddox scored 14 points to lead Malden and Angela Dobbins added nine points for Malden.
12th-seeded Greenville fell behind big early and could not recover as No. 5 Piggott (AR) rolled to an 83-39 victory to advance.
Greenville was paced by Jenna Marler (14 points), Brianna Despain (13 points) and Matti Looney (seven points).
No. 11 Holcomb pulled off the biggest upset of the day, holding off No. 6 Cape Central 57-50 in overtime.
Day 2, Monday, Championship and Consolation quarterfinals
9 a.m. Consolation quarterfinal 1: Hayti vs. Kelly
10:30 a.m. Consolation quarterfinal 2: Naylor vs. Greenville
Noon Consolation quarterfinal 4: Malden vs. Cape Central
1:30 p.m. Consolation quarterfinal 3: Doniphan JV vs. Twin Rivers
3 p.m. Championship quarterfinal 1: Doniphan vs. Portageville
4:30 p.m. Championship quarterfinal 2: Neelyville vs. Piggott AR
6 p.m. Championship quarterfinal 3: Dexter vs. Kennett
7:30 p.m. Championship quarterfinal 4: East Carter vs. Holcomb