With prolific scoring through the first three quarters, the Houston High School girls basketball team cruised to an easy victory in the first round of the Missouri State High School Activities Association Class 3 District 9 Tournament last Saturday in Hiett Gymnasium, routing Dixon 86-41.
The Lady Tigers led 26-7 at the end of the first quarter and were half way to 100 by halftime, leading 50-13.
On the way to a season-high scoring output, Houston sank a whopping 35 field goals in the contest, including 11 3-pointers. Both totals were also season-highs.
Seeded fourth in the six-team tournament, the Lady Tigers had 10 players score in the contest. Freshman guard Angie Smith went 5-for-5 from 3-point range and led the way with a career-high 21 points, while also dishing out 6 assists. Sophomore guard Aliyah Walker sank four shots from behind the arc and had 16 points for Houston, while junior Hannah Dzurick added 14 points and recorded 8 assists. Lady Tigers sophomores Katie Jo Chipps and Karlee Curtis each scored 8 points, while sophomore guard Makenzie Arthur had 6 and sophomore post MacKenzie Bryan added 5.
Fifth-seeded Dixon had only three players score in the game. Senior forward Ryli Martin nailed six 3-pointers and had 20 points, while freshman forward Resa Martin went 10-for-12 from the free throw line and also had 20.
The Lady Tigers dominated the boards in the contest, as Smith, Curtis, senior post Riley Scheets and sophomore post Rhease Mainer each pulled down 6 rebounds, while Bryan grabbed 5.
Houston senior guard Jaden Stell had 5 steals, and the squad committed a season-low 9 turnovers.
“We didn’t know what to expect from our team after a two-week layoff from playing games and only a few days of practice,” said Lady Tigers head coach Brent Kell, “but we were pleased with the way the girls played. I thought we were focused and did a good job of applying pressure and disrupting what Dixon wanted to do on offense. I was also very happy with our shooting and offensive production from several girls.
“Sometimes when you face a lesser-talented opponent, your team won’t play the best basketball. But I thought we executed well.”
With the victory, Houston advanced to play at top-seeded Steelville in a semifinal contest on Tuesday of this week. Kell said he expected a tough battle with the Lady Cardinals, who have several scorers and play a 1-3-1 zone defense that challenges the opposition to make good decisions with regard to passing and shot selection.
“We’ll be facing a team that is experienced and playing good basketball,” Kell said. “We’ll be the underdogs in every game as we move forward, and we’ve told our team that we need to go into every game the rest of the season playing free and loose basketball, because all of the pressure is on our opponents.”
The Lady Tigers adopted a motto going into the game: “Why not us?”
“Why can’t we be the ones who come out and play our best basketball of the season and upset some teams and move forward in the playoffs?” Kell said. “Steelville is the No. 1 seed and we’re not supposed to beat them. I know our team has not played their best basketball yet, and if the girls will believe they can, and play free and loose basketball, we have the talent to go there and pull it off.”
Houston still has two regular season South Central Association conference games left to play that were postponed due to wintry weather. The Lady Tigers (12-8, 3-2 SCA through Saturday) will face Willow Springs and Salem on dates to be announced.
After enjoying a seven-game winning streak, Houston had lost 3-out-of-4 before the beating Dixon.
“This team has really showed that anything is possible,” Dzurick said. “Hard work and determination has really shown this season. Anything can happen on any given night. And no matter what the outcome is, we will always have each other and the memories.”
“Working together as a team will always bring success,” Smith said. “Our team has the ability to never give up. This season we have grown together as a family. With confidence and determination we have had a lot of victories.”