Local talent to play on the national stage

Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Up and in Democrat Photo by Linda Patton Two years after helping Purdy win a Class 2 state basketball title, Audrey Patton has helped Central Methodist University advance to its first NAIA Division I Women's National Championship Tournament.

Two years ago, Purdy and Exeter high school's girls basketball teams played for the Class 2 and Class 1 state titles in Columbia.

Exeter coach Jason Cole made a passing statement after a semifinal victory in the post game interview that "great players make great coaches."

Six of the 10 starters who played for the Lady Tigers and Lady Eagles that season signed national letters of intent to play collegiate athletics.

Moving the play along Photo courtesy of William Woods Athletics Former Exeter standout Destani Stensrud, who won a state title with the Lady Tigers during her freshman season, assisted the William Woods University Lady Owls in reaching their fifth consecutive NAIA Division I Women's National Championship Tournament.

Of those six, Purdy's Audrey Patton signed with Central Methodist University (CMU) in Fayette, and Exeter's Destani Stensrud inked with William Woods University (WWU) in Fulton.

Two seasons removed from dominating the prep hardwood, Patton and Stensrud have both helped lead their respective teams to the 2013 NAIA Division 1 Women's Basketball National Tournament in Frankfort, Ky.

Patton

Audrey Patton

Patton, a sophomore at CMU, finished her high school career as a 1,000-point scorer and was selected as an All-Conference and All-District first team player.

After winning just five games in the 2010-11 season, CMU made a coaching change and hired James Arnold as head coach, which initiated a youth movement that included three freshmen in Patton, Brittney Lloyd and Karli Abbey.

The Lady Eagles finished the 2011-12 campaign with a 17-13 record. CMU enters this year's tournament sporting a 25-7 mark.

Destani Stensrud

Patton saw action in 21 games as a freshman and has reached the floor in 32 contests this season. She is averaging almost 2 points per contest and has increased her total production to warrant more playing time.

Patton scored a career-high 7 points this season in a win over Penn State University Greater Allegheny in McKeesport, Pa.

The 32-team national tournament field is comprised of 18 automatic berths from affiliated conferences and 14 at-large selections. The Lady Eagles secured one of 14 at-large invitations to NAIA Division I tournament.

CMU is one of five teams making their first-ever appearance in the Division I tourney. The Lady Eagles last tasted postseason play in the 1999-2000 season when they were a NAIA Division II member.

Audrey is the daughter of Stan and Linda Patton, of Purdy.

The Lady Eagles earned the eighth-seed in the fourth quadrant and will battle the top-seeded and defending national champion Oklahoma City Stars today (Wednesday). Tipoff is set for at 11 a.m.

Stensrud

Stensrud was a four-year starter for Exeter and a standout from day one.

As a freshman, she earned All-Ozark 7 Conference honorable mention recognition. In her sophomore season, the Lady Tigers won the Class 1 state championship, and Stensrud garnered second team All-Conference, All-District and All-State honors.

As a junior and senior, she collected All-Conference, All-District and All-State first team honors and was named to the Associated Press All-State second team.

It didn't take long for the Exeter star to make the transition from high school to college athletics.

Stensrud played in 29 games as a true freshman and averaged 4.4 points per contest.

Over the course of the 2012-13 season, the sophomore has witnessed her playing time increase, appearing in 31 games.

She is averaging 24 minutes, 7.6 points and 2.7 assists per contest.

William Woods (25-6) also received an at-large berth to the national tourney and is the sixth seed in the first quadrant and will face the third-seed and winners of the Heart of America Athletic Conference, MidAmerica Nazarene (30-2) tonight (Wednesday). Tipoff is slated for 8:45 p.m.

This is the sixth overall appearance (fifth consecutive) for the Lady Owls in the national tournament. William Woods is 1-5 overall in tournament games.

Destani is the daughter of Brian and Connie Stensrud, of Exeter.

The 32-team tournament tips off today (Wednesday) with eight games and Thursday with eight more first round contests. Quarterfinal action is slated for 2 p.m. on March 16 with the semifinals scheduled for March 18 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The championship final, which will be televised live on CBS Sports Network, will start at 6:30 p.m. on March 19.

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