In what would be politely termed a defensive struggle, Jackson's girls basketball team defeated rival Central 43-27 in the opening round of the HealthSouth Holiday Classic girls basketball tournament Friday night at the Show Me Center.
The second-seeded Indians moved into Monday's semifinal round where they will play No. 3 Sparta. Jackson has not won the HealthSouth Classic since its first year in 1996 and has not made a final since 2000.
"That's our ultimate goal, and I think we can do it," Jackson senior Ashley Bartels said of winning another title.
Neither team scored a basket in the first three minutes of the game, with Jackson (6-1) having numerous chances. Jackson finally got a couple of shots to fall and led 7-0 before Central (1-6) scored its first basket with less than two minutes remaining in the opening period.
"It was a defensive struggle, we just couldn't shoot the ball real well," Jackson coach Sam Sides said.
The young Tigers -- three of the five starters are sophomores -- continued to pressure the Indians throughout the first half. A 4-1 run by Central cut the lead to 10-8, a basket by senior Megan McDonald getting the Tigers as close as they would get all evening. Jackson was able to get to the line a couple of times but the shots still would not fall.
"Every time the shots don't fall that kind of hurts your self confidence," Bartels said.
By the time the halftime buzzer sounded Jackson held an 18-10 lead. Jackson and Central combined for only 10 first-half field goals -- five apiece.
"It wasn't a pretty game, but I think our defense caused a lot of that," Central coach Amy Blattel said.
The second half offered little relief for either offense. Even though the Tigers could generate little offense outside of McDonald, they continued to stay in the game. With less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter Central had cut the lead to 22-18 on a basket by Dani Gross.
"Their defense was very effective," Sides said. "They did a good job on the inside and we just couldn't hit our outside shots."
Jackson's guards finally gave the Indians some breathing room with a trio of 3-pointers. Jennifer Ferrell hit one late in the third quarter and another early in the fourth, and Linden Hahs' 3-pointer in the fourth.
"I think the difference in the ballgame were those 3-pointers we gave up that were uncontested," Blattel said.
After McDowell opened the fourth quarter with a basket to cut the lead to 25-22, Jackson used its new-found shooting touch to spark a 13-0 run which put the lead out of reach.
"We might have overlooked them a little bit, but we came back strong in the second half," Bartels said.
Down the stretch the Indians hit 8-of-10 free throws late to ice the game. Ferrell led Jackson with 12 points and Bartels added 11.
McDonald accounted for more than half of Central's offense with 14 points.
"It's always good to beat Central," Bartels said.
Cape Girardeau's other high school fared better Friday as No. 4 Notre Dame beat No. 5 Perryville 62-46 in other action at the HealthSouth Holiday Classic. The Bulldogs (4-2) led Perryville (3-2) 34-18 at halftime and cruised to the win.
Sierra Ellis led four double figure scorers for Notre Dame with 15 points. Sommer McCauley added 14 points, Laura Weissmueller had 13 and Katie Palmer had 11.
April Lorenz led the Pirates with 18 points and Amber Hacker had 10.
In other opening round action, top seed Farmington routed the Central JV 78-13 and No. 3 Sparta beat No. 6 Dexter 76-66.
Natalie Bess scored 28 points for Farmington in its win.
Action at the tournament will take Saturday and Sunday off and start back up Monday with a noon game between Perryville and the Central JV. Winners bracket games will start at 3 p.m. with Notre Dame and Farmington.
JACKSON 43, CENTRAL 27
CENTRAL (27) -- Megan McDonald 14, Lauren Loftis 4, Sonja Williams 2, Erica Schabbing 2, Jessica Johnston 3, Dani Gross 2. FG 11, FT 3-5, F 19 (3-pointers: McDonald 2. Fouled out: Gross)
JACKSON (43) -- Jennifer Ferrell 12, Ashley Bartels 11, Bobbie Jones 5, Kate Loos 6, Linden Hahs 6, Kelly Loos 1, Maria Oehl 2. FG 11, FT 18-23, F 10 (3-pointers: Ferrell 2, Hahs 1. Fouled out: none)
NOTRE DAME 62, PERRYVILLE 46
PERRYVILLE (46) -- Krista Miesner 7, Amber Hacker 10, April Lorenz 18, Danielle Hagan 1, Kate Lowry 9, Samanthan Lankford 2. FG 17, FT 6-14, F 12 (3-pointers: Miesner 1, Hacker 1, Lorenz 2, Lowry 3. Fouled out: Lowry)
NOTRE DAME (62) -- Sierra Ellis 15, Sommer McCauley 14, Laura Weissmueller 13, Katie Palmer 11, Ali Martin 1, Amanda Essner 4, Amber Karnes 2, Alana Weissmueller 2. FG 26, FT 8-11, F 12 (3-pointers: Ellis 1, Palmer 1. Fouled out: none)
FARMINGTON 78, CENTRAL JV 13
CENTRAL JV (13) -- Kristen Schlosser 4, Paige Rothenberg 2, Megan Orr 2, Bethany Sweet 4, Green 1. FG 6, FT 1-4, F 10 (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none)
FARMINGTON (78) -- Pratt 2, Tifanauer 3, Arnold 21, Schnurbush 2, Johnson 4, Peterson 6, Bess 28, Hooss 12. FG 33, FT 10-15, F 4 (3-pointers: Bess 2. Fouled out: none)
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