Lady Tigers are state bound
While Whitney Edie is undeniably the big horse for Exeter, the Lady Tigers proved they are no one-trick pony with resounding wins over Humansville and Montrose to advance to the Show-Me Showdown for Class 1, beginning Thursday, March 19 in Columbia.
In the Class 1 girls sectionals at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar on Tuesday, March 10, Coach Jason Cole substituted freely and used a masterful blend of speed and size to overcome the height advantage of the Humansville starting five and win 52-35.
In the quarterfinal game at Sedalia on Saturday, March 14, the Lady Tigers overcame a first half in which they never led to defeat the Montrose Lady Blue Jays and punch their ticket for the Missouri Class 1 Final Four. Exeter fought past several four-point leads to salvage a 20-20 tie at halftime and then used a suffocating defense to take control in the third quarter, enroute to the 40-33 victory.
Exeter Lady Tigers oust
Humansville in sectionals
Humansville boasted a front line of 5'9", 5'10" and 5'9" to offset the 6'1" Edie, and the height disadvantage bothered Exeter throughout the first quarter. Cole and assistant Jesse Paulsen conferred on the bench as their Lady Tigers rushed shots and hesitated to attack the post.
The more aggressive Humansville squad led for almost seven minutes before Kasie Scott's fast break lay-up put Exeter ahead, 6-5. Destani Stensrud delivered the only trey of the period for the Tigers with only :18 on the clock, and they led at the first break, 9-5.
Even the stall-infected district final against Verona produced more first-quarter points. Exeter was simply tight on offense, but their defensive effort could not have been stronger. Humansville blew several wide open break opportunities, and their half court offense was completely ineffective.
Edie started the second quarter scoring from the free-throw line after Kellie Bays hammered her on a determined drive to the basket. She hit both shots and retired to the Exeter bench. She had skipped her usual end-of-quarter breather when Cole opted to keep her on the floor with only a single-point lead. She sat for 1:58, getting air and fluids.
With Edie on the bench, Humansville's offense came alive. Exeter's 11-6 lead dissolved under a 7-0 Humansville run, and the game's second lead change came at 6:00 when Maggie Johnson's trey from the left corner gave the orange-and-black Tigers a 12-11 advantage.
Edie sprang off the bench and re-entered the game with 5:21 remaining before half, and her rebound and stick a minute later signalled Exeter's turn for a run. Humansville's guards could not contain Stensrud and Shelby Bowman, and the pair teamed for consecutive fast break assists and layups to push the lead to 17-12.
Edie smoked an 18-foot jumper for a 19-12 score and a seven-point Exeter lead. In the final 2:09 before halftime, Humansville's Lyndie Routh and Bays both scored, but Edie hit another long deuce and Bowman scorched a long bomb with :07 on the clock for a 24-16 Exeter lead.
Exeter's Lady Tigers, known for deadly shooting from three-point range to complement Edie's inside game, hit only a pair of treys in the first half, both in the waning seconds of the first and second quarters. But the defense made the difference, and the Lady Tigers' pressure and resulting points before halftime set the stage for the third quarter.
The Exeter Lady Tigers attacked from the opening whistle of the third quarter. Steals, blocks, lay-ups, a trey and five-for-six free-throw shooting . . . and that was just in the first four and a half minutes. Edie poured in 8 points of Exeter's 10-0 run to start the period, and the Lady Tigers owned a 34-16 lead.
The Exeter press wore out the Humansville guards, and Cole's timely substitutions with Ashton Scott, Abbey Scott and Nichole O'Neill kept size and fresh legs on the court for the Lady Tigers. Ashton Scott's lay-up in the final minute of the third gave Exeter the first 20-point lead at 39-19.
With Edie on the bench to start the final period, Humansville responded with an 8-0 run to chop the lead to 39-27. Edie got back on the court, scored and completed a three-point play, and then Kasie Scott raced to a fast break lay-up to reestablish a 17-point cushion.
Exeter slowed the game and took time off the clock. When Edie popped a short jumper in the lane for a 21-point lead at the 3:18 mark, it was time for Don Meredith to sing "Turn out the lights, the party's over." Humansville would score six more points, but Exeter collected the win and advanced in the bracket to face Montrose.
Defense key to win
Was Exeter ready for this game? With four minutes remaining in the boys' game between Chadwick and Thomas Jefferson, the Lady Tigers filled the hallway at the southwest corner of the court, anxiously waiting to take their first warm-up shots. The Exeter team remembered all too well their loss in the quarterfinals last year and was in a hurry to get back on the road to Columbia.
The once-beaten Lady Blue Jays of Montrose threw a formidable shadow across Exeter's path to the Show-Me Showdown. Led by super-sophomore Morgan Eye, the Lady Jays confused and befuddled Exeter throughout the early going.
"In the first quarter, we were going for steals instead of trying to control and contain," explained Exeter Coach Jason Cole.
Montrose capitalized in the first quarter when Exeter overplayed outside passing lanes and left the low post area open for drives and interior passing.
Morgan Eye drove and scored her first basket at the 7:27 mark to give Montrose the 2-0 lead. Destani Stensrud tied it on an assist from Whitney Edie following a steal and then Eye scored again in the lane to cap a very deliberate offensive possession.
Cole called his first timeout with 5:13 on the clock. But it was Eye who answered the call, scoring her third bucket in just three minutes on a nifty drive down the lane. Edie finally scored, twining a pair of free throws after rebounding her own miss.
Katie Chadd slammed Montrose's Kristen Bellinghausen to prevent an easy lay-up and was rewarded when Bellinghausen missed both unguarded shots. Edie collected the ball at the right elbow of the lane and free throw line and swished a 15-foot jumper for the second tie of the game, 6-6.
Montrose spurted back out in front on consecutive lay-ups by Felicia Foster and Eye, and the Lady Jays led 10-6. Cole immediately called his second time out of the first period at the 2:44 mark. Abbey Scott hit a free throw, and Edie hit two of them when Eye committed back-to-back fouls on Exeter possessions after the timeout, and the lead was down to 10-9.
Victoria Engeman avoided Edie and pitched in a lay-up for Montrose with 1:17 left in the quarter. Stensrud nailed the first trey of the game to buy a 12-12 tie, but Eye watched her three ball fall to end the first quarter scoring, and Montrose led, 15-12.
Montrose's offensive scheme took advantage of Exeter's aggressive nature. But Cole is a great student of the game and is known for his adjustments on the fly. No ego on the Exeter bench, he is one coach who will abandon or tweak a carefully crafted plan in a hurry when things go awry.
Exeter's offense still jerked and lurched along in the second quarter like a balky Model T, but the defense had Ferrari stamped all over it. The Lady Tigers read the Montrose offense easily throughout the period, and limited the Lady Jays to a mere 5 points. After scoring 6 first quarter points, Edie added four more in the second, and Stensrud drove for a pair of late lay-ups to pull Exeter into a 20-20 tie at halftime.
"We manned up on their best three players and concentrated on not letting them beat us," said Cole of the defensive change.
Indeed, Edie played a virtual one-man zone in the lane, daring Montrose's Katelyn Bracher to shoot from the outside. While Bracher exhilarated the Montrose cheering section with her two buckets in the second quarter, she was the only Lady Blue Jay that scored from the field in that frame as Exeter tied the game on Stensrud's fast-break lay-up only seconds before the halftime horn.
If the Montrose fans thought their offense couldn't possibly play worse, they were missing their crystal ball. Exeter's girls only scored 8 third quarter points, same as their second quarter output, but the Lady Tigers held Montrose to only 4 points and built a precarious 28-24 lead.
Edie gained Exeter's first lead of the afternoon with a coast-to-coast lay-up, and then a hard bounce off the glass from the right block with 5:29 on the clock. Montrose took a timeout, trailing 24-22.
Eye's drive and right-hand hook off the glass gave the game its sixth tie, 24-24, at the 4:11 mark of the third. Montrose would not score again in the quarter, while scoring by Kasie Scott and Stensrud carried Exeter to the 28-24 advantage at the break.
In the tense fourth quarter, the Exeter lead reached 8 points, as Stensrud popped a 12-foot jumper, and Edie scored two field goals, fashioning the second into a three-point play with the foul by Eye. Montrose gamely fought back and used a 6-0 run to move within a deuce at 35-33.
With only 1:13 to play, Eye fouled Edie, and she missed the front end of the one-and-one chance. Bracher missed on the offensive end for Montrose, but Exeter kicked it out of bounds. Edie stole the ball under the rim on the inbounds attempt and dribbled the length of the court before the Montrose gang could foul her.
This time, Edie sank both freebies and extended the lead to 37-33 with :43 left. Stensrud stole a Montrose pass, but the Lady Jays stole it right back and raced across half court. Edie snared a pass in the lane to quell the threat, and she was fouled by Eye. This pair of accurate free throws pushed the lead to 39-33, and Edie added one more charity shot before the buzzer for the final score of 40-33.
Edie led all scorers with her 24 points, and Stensrud scored 13 for the Exeter cause. Eye earned her 15 points for Montrose, and likely a YouTube appearance with her fourth quarter block of Edie.
Montrose was good, and it was a very relieved Exeter team that celebrated with family and friends after the game. Still, they had to be satisfied knowing they had beaten one of the state's best and would be playing again in the sports' most prestigious venue.