Defense, mental toughness spur Purdy to title game

Friday, February 24, 2017
Purdy’s Zoe Brown hauls in a pass during the Lady Eagles win over McAuley in District play on Wednesday. Jared Lankford/

Lady Eagles face Pierce City for District 12 hardware

A district title game awaits the Purdy girls basketball team tonight after defeating McAuley, 61-50, in the Class 2, District 12 semifinal on Wednesday.

“We’ve trained all year for this moment,” said Eli Ernst, Purdy coach. “We’ve approached how we coached and how we handle the girls. We’ve put them in a lot of mental challenges so that when we get to this situation, we can take that next step. If you don’t practice the mental side of the game, you’re only as good as your jump shot, so to speak. I think we’ve progressed a lot on that side of the ball.”

Purdy faces a familiar foe for district title — Pierce City. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. tonight.

On Wednesday, the Lady Eagles jumped out to a 16-8 lead on the Lady Warriors behind a barrage of five 3-pointers.

“I thought we came out pretty good,” Ernst said. “The 3 is an exciting play in a game of girls basketball. We don’t have the dunk, so the 3-pointer is as big as we can get. I felt like we were in control for most of the game. There in the second quarter they made a little run at us while we were in the process of switching defenses, and once we got settled in we were fine.”

Purdy increased the lead to 33-19 and held a 47-31 edge after three quarters. The Lady Warriors would make one final push, drawing as close as 53-45 before Purdy salted the game away.

“You have to credit what Coach [Mike] Howard has done with that team,” Ernst said. “They played us tough. He deserves a lot of credit for what we had to play through tonight.”

For every McAuley run, Purdy had the answer, largely due to its defensive pressure and transition baskets.

“Lots can be said about a lot of girls on our team,” Ernst said. “A girl that kind of gets lost in this mix is Zoe Brown. She is a big piece to what we do. She is one of the best free throw shooters in this part of the state, and we don’t get to where we are without her.”

The team’s unselfish nature was on display in the transition game, with the girls making the extra pass to an open teammate. Ernst said the team discussed being slightly more selfish at halftime.

“I think we get a little too unselfish sometimes and try to make a pass too close to the rim,” Ersnt said. “We told them at halftime to go ahead and knock that shot down. There was no benefit with the extra pass [close to the basket]. I thought our transition game got us to the free throw line and kept on the [right] side of the scoreboard.”

Scoring for Purdy: Layne Skiles, 19; Rion Boyd, 12; Sami House, 11; Devyn Callahan, 8; Cailyn Spears, 6; Brown, 4; and Hallie Henderson, 1.

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