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Delta girls basketball downs Saxony to win first-ever FSCB Holiday Classic title

The Delta Bobcats pose with the First State Community Bank Holiday Classic Championship after beating Saxony Lutheran 53-45 on Thursday at the Show Me Center. Photo by Jay Forness

Back in the 2021-22 season, the Delta Bobcats girls basketball team reached the First State Community Bank Holiday Classic championship game but ultimately fell to powerhouse Notre Dame.

Fast forward two seasons when the Bulldogs are no longer in the tournament, the Bobcats outscored their three opponents by a combined total of 181-100 to win their very first Holiday Classic title last week at the Show Me Center.

No. 1 seeded Delta (9-0) did so with a 53-45 win over No. 3 Saxony Lutheran (7-4) as the Bobcats had two players nearly outscore the Crusaders by themselves combined on Thursday night.

This was the guard tandem of senior Addison Nichols and junior Jade Berry as Berry led all scorers with a game-high 24 points, while Nichols paced her teammate with 17 to combine for 41. Both players also knocked down three 3-pointers apiece.

“We’ve always had the desire and firepower to win this tournament, but now that it’s my last go around, it has been really amped up this year,” Nichols said. “This is a really good win under our belt, and we have so much of the rest of the season left.”

All three of Nichols’ makes from beyond the arc came in the second quarter to help Delta go on a 11-0 scoring run after trailing Saxony 20-16. The first triple by Addison gave the Bobcats a 22-20 lead as Berry hit a 3 of her own not long after.

Nichols propelled Delta to a 30-22 lead when she hit yet another momentum-switching 3-pointer in the second quarter, which secured a 32-27 halftime lead.

Along with Berry and Nichols leading the way, seniors Presley Holweg and Mya Gillespie were the only two Bobcats to score as Presley finished with eight points to Mya’s four. Both of them had been leading Delta in scoring in the Holiday Classic prior to the title game.

Nichols, Gillespie and Berry were each selected to the 12-player Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team, which is voted on by media members and tournament personnel.

This was the fourth time Nichols was named to the all-tournament team, which is fairly noteworthy considering recent Holiday Classic legends like Saxony’s Emma Brune, Notre Dame’s Lexi Rubel and Tori Rubel and Jackson’s Katie Waller weren’t even four-time selections.

“Getting this award means a lot, especially when you compare yourself to everyone else who’s been given the award,” Nichols said. “Many great players like both the Rubels and Katie Waller have received this. It just brings some confidence to the table during this part of the season when everyone starts to get exhausted and tired.”

Back in the same season when Delta last reached the Holiday Classic championship game, Nichols and Berry both helped the Bobcats reach the Class 1 state title game. Delta ended up falling to South Nodaway in its fifth-ever trip to the state final four.

One reason why Delta has been so dominate over the past four seasons with players like Nichols, Berry and Holweg is because of its aggressive and fast-paced style of play. Outside of always running a full-court press defensively, the Bobcats are always fighting for possession of the ball or to get to the basket for easy layups.

“Presley, Jade, Mya and I all have competitive attitudes, and when you all have a competitive attitude, you just connect like LEGOs,” Addison said. “We all work so hard every day to where we get to the point in our scrimmages where all Coach Heeb can say is, ‘Nobody’s gonna beat you if you play like this.’”

Since Addison’s feet first stepped onto the court for her first varsity game in 2020-21, Delta has produced a record of 82-12 (87.2 winning percentage) and won three district championships with one state runner-up finish.

Outside of her scoring ability in all three levels on the floor, Nichols has become one of the better all-around players in Southeast Missouri and is being recruited to play collegiately. While Addison is the focal point of the Bobcats defensive attack, she’s also facilitating, collecting rebounds and coming up with steals left and right.

“We’ve always had great defensive players, and I’ve always focused on scoring,” Nichols said. “This year, I think I have really progressed in my defense and aggressiveness. But it’s easy to play this way when you know the rest of the team behind you has your back and allows you to play this way.”

As for Saxony, the Crusaders were led by senior Evie Caruso with 13 points as she did her best to protect the basket by recording multiple blocks on the Bobcats.

Fellow Saxony senior Becca Johnson actually scored a team-high 14 points as she hit three treys, while junior Abby Haley paced Johnson and Caruso with eight points of her own.

The Crusaders upset No. 2 Jackson (5-4) 41-37 in the semifinals on Monday night, where Haley led Saxony in scoring with a team-high 13 points as both Caruso and Johnson were held to under double-digit points.

Jackson ended up taking third place in this year’s Holiday Classic with a 52-31 win over Class 2 St. Vincent (5-5), which is without two of its top players junior Allie Patrick and sophomore Lana Adams this winter due to injury. Indians senior Holland Guilliams scored a game-high 17 points and hit three 3-pointers in the win.

Saxony’s Caruso and Haley were named to the Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team, while Guilliams was Jackson’s only representative. Making up the other six all-tournament team selections were Oak Ridge junior Reagan Howe, Cape Central junior Emani Summers, Scott City junior Lilyan Landis, Woodland junior Mallary Barks, Kelly senior Jada Griggs and St. Vincent sophomore Rylee Robinson.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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