The Exeter Lady Tigers knocked off defending state champion Walnut Grove to reserve their spot in this year's Class 1 state playoffs. Exeter breezed through the Class 1 District 4 tournament to clinch a place in post-season play.
The Lady Tigers started the district tournament with a huge victory over Golden City. In the semi-final, they took down Ozark 7 foe Verona 60-30 and then finished off Walnut Grove in the final 49-33.
Against Verona in the semi-final Exeter had to wake up in the second half. After trailing early, Verona made a run in the second quarter that left them behind by only 3 points; however, the Lady Tigers put an end to the upset bid, outscoring the Wildcats 32-9 in the second half.
In the district championship game, the Lady Tigers took on last year's state champion, Walnut Grove. Exeter's biggest strategy for the game was defense.
The Lady Tiger squad used their match-up zone to effectively shut down their opponent. Walnut Grove's focus was definitely on the three-point shot, and the Lady Tigers played so well that their opponent only shot six in the entire contest.
The oppressing defense helped Exeter build an early 16-6 lead, and the Lady Tigers expanded that to 27-14 at half. The Tigers defense loosened a bit in the third quarter, and Walnut Grove took advantage of the opportunity, knocking down four three-point shots and closing the gap to as close as 4 points in the third. The Lady Tigers responded and outscored the defending champs 16-5 in the final frame to win the game.
Exeter's defense was phenomenal in the contest and was so good that no Walnut Grove player had more then 6 points.
Whitney Edie led the Lady Tigers in scoring with 22 points. Destini Stensrud added 14. Others scoring for Exeter included Kasie Scott 8, Shelby Bowman 2 and Alisha Scott 2.
Exeter already wrapped up one championship this season finishing with a perfect record in the Ozark 7 Conference, and after adding a district crown, the Lady Tigers now look to do the same in the Class 1 state playoffs.
Exeter has never won a girls basketball state championship. In fact, this is the Lady Tigers' first trip ever to the state playoffs, but with Edie, a Missouri State University recruit, and a host of young maturing players, the team will do its best to make Exeter history.
The Lady Tigers (21-6) face Bradleyville (15-7) today (Wednesday) in the first round of the Class 1 playoffs at 6 p.m. at Republic High School. Exeter will have a tough match-up against Bradleyville, and if they win, the Lady Tigers will play again on Saturday, March 8 against either Scott County Central (10-12) or Delta (22-2) at the West Plains Civic Center at 1 p.m.