The 6-0 St. John Lady Tigers basketball team came away with two wins last week, defeating the undefeated Central Plains Oilers 48-36 at Clafin Tuesday, then had a lop-sided victory against the Cunningham Wildcats Friday at home 49-20.
It was almost like two different St. John teams showing up to play the #5 ranked in 2A Oilers – one, an apprehensive, scared looking bunch showing up for the first half, committing an uncharacteristic 18 turnovers. And the another, looking confident, task-driven and ready to knock heads with the Oilers in the second half.
“The Central Plains game was a good one to win, especially after the way we played in the first half.” said St. John's head coach Danny Smith. “For some reason, we just weren't ready to play and turned it over and got into foul trouble. Even though we were down four at half, we felt pretty good about it, because we couldn't have played much worse.”
Right from the start, the Lady Tigers had problems dealing with the Central Plains' half-court zone, especially St. John's front line. Passes were carelessly thrown into traffic, lobbed and telegraphed, resulting in several Tiger turnovers. Fortunately for St. John, the Wildcats weren't able to capitalize on those mistakes, giving the Tigers a 8-6 first quarter lead.
The Tigers built their lead to six midway through the second, but that didn't last long, the Oilers coming back and moved ahead, finishing the half leading 16-20.
Whatever St. John's coach Danny Smith said to his players during halftime must of worked.
A combination of defensive pressure, adjusting to Central's zone, shooting 74 percent from the foul line (20-27) and just pure hustle got the win.
St. John's guards started feeding the ball more to their big man Teresa Christie underneath for the higher percentage shot. She did a good job maneuvering around Central's six footer and getting into position for the good shot underneath. When she didn't make the shot, she was usually fouled, then went to the line and made 10 straight swishers, the score after three, St. John 33 – Central Plains 28.
That approach continued to work in the final quarter as the Tigers pulled away for the win 48-36. Christie had a career high 24 points, most coming from free throws making 16-19.
“During the first half, we didn't play well at all, but during the second we just nailed it to them and really defended.” said Christie. “Jamie (Waters) played extremely well and her defense shot down Phelan. Overall we did very well in the half.”
Scoring for St. John: Teresa Christie 24, Waters 11, Witt 6, Tia Smith 3, Morgan Osborne 2, Jessica Hanson 1 and Tara Christie 1.
Three point goals: SJ 2 (Smith, Waters).
Page 2 of 2 - “It was nice to have the girls come out and play a lot more determined in the second half and play much, much better.” said Smith. “Teresa Christie hit 16 of 19 free throws that were huge for us. And all of the girls defended much better without fouling in the second half. It's better to play bad and win than to play bad and lose.”
Even though the Lady Tigers skunked Cunningham's Lady Wildcats 15-0 in the first quarter last Friday, their old nemesis - poor outside shooting plagued the Tigers all evening. Not that affected the final outcome, just the margin of victory against a team, their tallest player in the starting lineup 5'5”.
Playing good defense, overpowering on the boards (38-20) and assists (17-5), the Lady Tigers swept away the Wildcats 49-20.
“Cunningham deserves a lot of credit. We had a hard time turning them over, and they never quit playing hard. We just couldn't seem to hit shots, so the game was a lot closer than it should've been. We played hard, but didn't help ourselves out much. On a bright note, we rebounded very well (26 offensive) and only had 7 turnovers as a team.”
Scoring for St. John: Waters 16, Witt 12, Osborne 9, Teresa Christie 7, Smith 3 and Tara Christie 2.
Three point goals: SJ 3(Waters 2, Smith).