Saxony Lutheran cruises into semis of Holiday Classic girls basketball tournament

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Saxony Lutheran girls basketball team got off to a shaky start Tuesday at the Kelso Supply Holiday Classic.

Then the Crusaders turned things up several notches and never looked back.

Fourth-seeded Saxony blasted fifth-seeded Meadow Heights 57-16 in the opening round of the eight-team event at the Show Me Center.

"We started off slow, then we picked it up," Saxony senior Natalie Mueller said.

Saxony never had won a game in the tournament, and last year the Crusaders dropped all three of their contests by double figures.

But things are certainly looking up for the Crusaders (6-1) this season as the squad is bolstered by an influx of talented freshmen.

Four freshmen started Tuesday for Saxony, which listed seven freshmen on its tournament roster.

"They've really stepped up," Mueller said.

Saxony coach Sam Sides thought all that youth might have led to some nerves during those rookies' first Show Me Center game.

The Crusaders committed nine turnovers in the opening period that ended with them ahead 10-8 thanks to a shot in the lane at the buzzer by sophomore Abby Hadler.

"I think we played a little scared, a little nervous," Sides said. "I thought Meadow Heights was the aggressor to start. We turned the ball over a bunch early."

Saxony displayed few nerves over the final three quarters, when the Crusaders committed just five turnovers and outscored the Panthers (2-6) 47-8.

That domination included a 17-0 whitewash in the final period, most of which was played with a running clock used whenever a team leads by 30 points or more in the fourth quarter.

"I don't think it was nerves. We just started off slow," said Saxony freshman Grace Mirly of the Crusaders' sluggish early play. "We didn't have the right pace to start off with."

The Crusaders found the right pace over the final three periods, forcing numerous turnovers that led to fast-break baskets.

Mirly scored 19 points to pace Saxony. No other player had more than seven points as eight Crusaders found the scoring column.

Mirly scored 10 first-half points, including six straight during an 8-0 early second-quarter run that put the Crusaders up 18-9.

Mueller's 3-pointer with just over three minutes left in the second quarter put Saxony up 21-10 for its first double-figure lead. The margin remained at least 11 points the rest of the way.

Saxony, ahead 25-12 at halftime, broke things open by scoring the first eight points of the third quarter. It was 40-16 entering the final period.

The Crusaders now will play the only team they have lost to this season as they face top-seeded Notre Dame in Thursday's 7 p.m. semifinal.

Saxony trailed just 24-22 at halftime before suffering a 60-47 defeat at Notre Dame on Dec. 8.

Meadow Heights8440--16
Saxony Lutheran10151517--57

MEADOW HEIGHTS (16) -- Caitlin Cook 6, Kiana Hotop 5, Emma Cook 1, Taylor Cureton 2, Hayley Thorne 2. FG 5, FT 6-9, F 15. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: C. Cook)

SAXONY LUTHERAN (57) -- Abby Hadler 7, Grace Mirly 19, Brianna Mueller 7, Natalie Mueller 7, Lauren Hecht 3, Tess Daniel 4, Ashlynn Collier 4, Raegan Wieser 6. FG 22, FT 10-17, F 13. (3-pointers: Mirly 1, N. Mueller 2. Fouled out: none)

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