Tourney semifinals prove intriguing

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The cream of the Kelso Supply Holiday Classic crop separated itself from the rest of the competition.

Now things get interesting.

The tournament's top four seeds -- Notre Dame, Central, Jackson and Saxony Lutheran -- each rolled to easy wins in Tuesday's first-round action at the Show Me Center. But none of the four coaches in the championship semifinals is looking past today's opponent.

"Believe me, we are not looking past anybody or any team at this time," said Notre Dame coach Renee Peters, whose top-seeded squad disposed of Scott City 60-25 on Tuesday. "We had four teams separate themselves, and that will set up for some interesting semifinals."

Jackson coach Tyler Abernathy said the tournament remains up for grabs.

"You can take any of the top four teams and make an argument for any of them," he said.

Notre Dame faces a familiar foe in fourth-seeded Saxony Lutheran. The Bulldogs (6-1) defeated the Crusaders 60-47 on Dec. 8 and already own two wins over Jackson.

"I'm sure with their coaching and resiliency they'll be ready to play," Peters said.

Saxony coach Sam Sides hopes his young squad learned something in the loss to Notre Dame, a game in which the Crusaders trailed by just two points at halftime.

"You hope it prepares you a bit," he said. "But when it comes down to it you've still got to get it done."

The Crusaders (6-1) struggled early in their tourney opener against Meadow Heights before pulling away for a 57-16 victory.

"We have to keep our intensity up for the whole game," Sides said. "In the first game (against Notre Dame) we let people get by us. We can't let them penetrate and get to the basket."

The evening's second championship semifinal pits Central (5-2) against Jackson (5-4). The Tigers downed Sikeston 55-25 on Tuesday, while Jackson hammered Perryville 53-20.

"It's going to take a good defensive effort," Central coach Sherri Shirrell said about trying to take down the Indians. "They're a good shooting team, and they're a good penetrating team."

Shirrell acknowledged that while both teams like to push the ball down the floor, there are differences between the two squads as well.

"Their outside game is pretty strong, but I think we have both an inside and outside game. It's going to take a strong defensive effort for us to win."

Central's Alayah Cooper-Johnson dominated against Sikeston, scoring 29 points and pulling down 14 rebounds, including nine offensive boards, and added four steals.

"They're a really good team," Abernathy said of the Tigers. "Cooper-Johnson is a hard matchup for anybody. It's going to be a tough matchup for us."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: