Chelbie Kern didn't start for Exeter's Lady Tigers on Saturday at Branson. But she finished. Oh how she finished.
Exeter's senior forward led all scorers with 14 points, as the Lady Tigers rolled to a 60-37 victory over Chadwick in the title game of the Class 1, District 4 girls basketball tournament hosted by Hurley at Branson.
Four Lady Tigers scored in double figures. Sarah Staples and Ashton Scott scored 12 each and Abbey Scott added 10 as Exeter's big front line punished Chadwick in the paint all night.
If Chadwick's Terry Mitchell had seen in a vision that Destani Stensrud would only score 5 points against his Lady Cardinals, he would have been making travel plans early for West Plains. Usually when your defense shuts down the opposition's scoring leader, your team enjoys positive results.
But Chadwick didn't shut down Stensrud, they simply couldn't handle Exeter's trio of big post players.
Jason Cole's brilliant substitution pattern kept Chadwick off balance throughout the game. Exeter went big, they went small, and they went fast. They even went wild when Devin Boyke came on and ripped back-to-back treys midway through the second quarter to ignite an 11-0 run for the Lady Tigers that erased Chadwick's last lead and put the Lady Cardinals on the ropes.
Over three minutes elapsed in the first period without a score, and Chadwick held a 9-8 lead at the horn. Kern and Sarah Staples accounted for all of the Exeter scoring in that frame with 4 points each. The bigger stat was the three blocked shots by the Lady Tigers as Ashton Scott intimidated the Chadwick interior players.
The second quarter saw five lead changes in the first two and a half minutes. Kern's fourth bucket of the game gave Exeter a 14-13 lead at the 5:35 mark.
"Here comes Devin," chanted a loud and boisterous Exeter student section. The "mad hatters" in Tiger red and black owned the west bleachers during the game, providing strong support and comic relief throughout the contest.
Boyke checked in and promptly ripped a trey from the right corner for a 17-13 Exeter lead. Abbey Scott stuffed Chadwick's Jamie Hale on the following possession and then Boyke ripped the cords again from outside to build a 20-13 score.
With the clock winding down on the first half, Ashton Scott snared an offensive rebound and swished a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to give Exeter a 28-17 lead at intermission.
Chadwick would never recover from the second quarter outburst. The Lady Tigers extended the lead to 45-24 by the end of the third period and led by as many as 29 in the final frame enroute to the 60-37 final score.
"This is big, real big," said Exeter's Jason Cole. "This was the most complete game we played all year."
The Lady Tigers advance to face South Iron in a Class 1 sectional game at the West Plains Civic Center on Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. A victory there would send them to Poplar Bluff on Saturday for a 2:45 p.m. game with either Naylor or Delta.
Exeter scorers: Chelbie Kern, 14; Sarah Staples, 112; Ashton Scott, 12; Abbey Scott, 10; Devin Boyke, 6; Destani Stensrud, 5; and Bailey Bowman, 1.
Chadwick scorers: Jamie Hale, 11; Kryston Dollarhyde, 8; Erika Davis, 5; Shelby Jones, 5; Kaylee Swindle, 2; Ashlee Jones, 2; Matty Hursh, 2; and Sierra Rozell, 2.