Exeter's Lady Tigers, the third-ranked Class 1 team in Missouri, shook off some first-half shooting doldrums and defeated the spirited McAuley Lady Warriors, 61-44, in an Ozark 7 Conference battle at Joplin on Monday, Jan. 12.
McAuley opened the game with surprising success inside the lane, scoring and rebounding with little regard for the 6'1" Whitney Edie, and held a slim 22-21 lead midway through the second quarter. Edie, who led Exeter with 28 points, scored 9 in the second quarter and helped her team to a 31-25 halftime lead, then scored 15 of her team's 17 fourth quarter points to put the game out of reach.
Exeter looked nothing like the team that swamped Southwest last week, connecting on few outside shots the entire evening. One rare bomb came when Shelby Bowman launched a jumper from the left corner to cap a very deliberate offensive possession to start the game.
McAuley's Shelby Tinney led a quick comeback, and the Lady Warriors took a 7-6 lead on her lay-up with exactly four minutes left in the quarter. Exeter regained the lead and grabbed a 10-7 advantage on Destani Stensrud's bucket at 1:59, but McAuley scored a free throw and two quick baskets on consecutive Exeter turnovers to produce a 12-12 tie to end the quarter.
McAuley's diminutive but lightning-quick guards constantly frustrated Exeter's girls and created havoc on the court. At times, McAuley played a bizarre box and one defense, with one of their not-quite-five-feet guards hounding Edie on the perimeter like pit bulls guarding the junk yard.
"We let the ball in the middle too much early in the game," said Exeter Coach Jason Cole. "We also gave up too many offensive rebounds.'
In the second quarter, Exeter stuck to its game plan, and even though the outside shots still wouldn't fall, the rebounds and loose balls seemed to end up in the hands of the players in red shirts more often than not. Still, McAuley hung in the game and seized a three-point lead at 5:10 in the second period when Tinney scored on a slick assist from Jae Stephens.
The Lady Tigers immediately exploited a weakness, throwing long to Edie against the press and gaining the classic "hoop and harm." Edie canned the free throw for a 19-19 tie. McAuley regained the lead with a Tinney free throw, and the lead seesawed until Edie scored to give Exeter the lead, 23-22.
Exeter reeled off an 8-3 run to finish the half, led by Bowman and Stensrud. Edie got in her licks too: literally, as she inadvertently busted Stephens in the chops during a rebound with only :27 left before halftime.
McAuley opened the third quarter with possession of the ball, facing a 31-25 deficit. Almost immediately, Edie swiped an interior pass and triggered a break that ended with Stensrud burying a trey from the left wing, and Exeter led 34-25.
Tinney banked in a trey of her own to answer for McAuley, and Edie scored too easily when the Lady Warriors again failed to get back on defense following the made basket. Another Edie basket and a turnover by the home team led to a 38-28 score and a McAuley timeout with 5:12 left in the third quarter.
Exeter's big post did not score again in the quarter, but her consecutive blocks on defense and slick passing helped build a 44-33 Exeter lead at 1:31 of the period, the second double-digit lead of the game.
There were six seconds left in the quarter when McAuley's Tinney found the bank open again with a desperate heave, and carved the lead to 44-36 at the buzzer.
With their perfect conference record on the line, Exeter turned the game over to Edie. The Lady Tigers ran a modified delay game, draining precious time off the clock with their perimeter passing, but always looking to feed Edie in the paint. She scored again and again on offense and even dribbled coast-to-coast for a lay-up following a steal under the rim.
With 18 seconds left to play, Edie broke unguarded down the court and scored on an easy snowbird lay-up, which could only have been more emphatic with a two-handed dunk.
Edie was the headliner of the box score, leading the way with her 28 points. Stensrud chipped in a dozen points for Exeter.
Tinney turned in a great performance of her own, scoring 20 and keeping McAuley in the game. Stephens added 11 points in a courageous effort for the Lady Warriors, after leaving the game in obvious distress after her encounter with Edie under the boards.
Exeter improved to 11-1 overall with the victory and preserved a perfect Ozark 7 slate at 5-0. The McAuley Lady Warriors now have an overall record of 5-3 and are 2-1 in conference play.
"We did a really nice job of blocking out and rebounding, but we need to do some things better like getting back on defense," noted McAuley Coach Chelsea Holmes. "You have to give a lot of credit to Whitney Edie. She is very talented, and at 6' 1", she presented major challenges to our kids."