The Jackson girls basketball team won its second tournament of the 2016-17 season last Wednesday by defeating Saxony Lutheran 54-34 at the Show Me Center.
This contest was the championship game of the annual Kelso Supply Holiday Girls Basketball Tournament where both teams have met in the last two seasons.
Saxony came out on top to win the 2014 and 2015 tournament championship, but Jackson’s 12-0 lead to start this year’s game proved to be too much for the Crusaders to overcome.
“We got a terrible start and dug ourselves a big hole,” Saxony head coach Sam Sides said. “We were a little scared and intimidated because their size is hard to deal with, and we’re not very strong physically anyway. “Trying to deal with their body size in [the paint], it’s tough. Athletically I think we matched up with them [all except] in the physical size and strength, and plus they shoot the ball so well.”
In the post for Jackson was sophomore Alexis Allstun, who went up against junior Addison Beussink and freshman Gracie Price throughout the game.
“Last year, [Allstun] was a non-factor. This year, she was a big factor,” Sides said. “She’s matured and is a better ball player, and my girls, we’ve just got to learn how to deal with that.”
Sides went on to say he thought his team was able to play well against Allstun at some points in the game, largely because of Price’s growth as a post player.
“[Price] was really soft early, but she’s gotten tougher and stronger,” Sides said. “She’s going to be a good player if she stays with it. That will give us another option inside, but she needs some seasoning, too. We’ve got to play a lot of young kids, so we’ve got a ways to go.”
Allstun started the 12-0 run for the Indians when she got the ball via an offensive rebound and put it in for two.
Jackson’s next score came when senior Randa Norman found senior Rylee Stafford who hit her first 3-point shot of the game.
Jackson led Saxony 5-0 following that play with nearly two minutes having passed in the first quarter. Saxony quickly lost possession following the play when Norman got a steal, which eventually went to Allstun.
Allstun drew a foul while going to the basket for two points against Beussink to convert the three-point play for Jackson to go up 8-0 over Saxony.
Jackson got the ball back shortly after for Stafford to hit a long-range jumper, which only counted for two points.
Allstun then had another offensive rebound, which ended in an easy layup for Jackson to take the 12-0 lead.
Saxony’s first points of the game came with 1:14 left in the first quarter, and that was when junior forward Masyn McWilliams got a steal and drove down the lane for two.
“It was odd, I told them,” Jackson head coach Tyler Abernathy said. “Our shoot out [before the game] was phenomenal. They were so loose and just having fun — it was how we came out [in this game]. And we talked about just relishing the opportunity tonight and not stressing out about it. Just using it as an opportunity to get better, and if you go in with that mindset and not worrying about the outcome but worrying about what you can control — I think what can happen happened.”
Down 14-4 after the first quarter to Jackson, Coach Sides decided it was time he needed to switch up his team’s defense and to start double teaming whichever Indian was handling the ball.
“We tried to mix up our defense a little bit, and again, it just requires so much energy to cover all of their shooters because they’ve got more than one,” Coach Sides said. “If they’ve only got one shooter that’s pretty easy to guard, but when they’ve got three of four of them out there that can hurt you that’s really hard. It forces you into one-on-one coverage’s, and that isolates your post, and we are exposed there because of their skill in the post. Like I said, you pick your poison and they poisoned us. We just couldn’t guard them.”
Allstun scored the first points of the second quarter off an inbound pass from Norman. In fact, Allstun scored the first six points of the quarter to extend Jackson’s lead to 20-4 with 6:15 left in the first half.
Following Allstun’s six-point scoring run, senior Abby Hermann hit her first 3-pointer of the night to put Jackson up 23-4. She made another 3-point shot shortly after to force Saxony to call its second timeout of the half down 26-6 with 4:06 remaining in the second quarter.
Jackson only scored three more points in the rest of the half, which came from another 3-pointer by Hermann.
Saxony went on a 5-0 scoring run to finish the second quarter to make it 29-15 heading into halftime.
“I thought about us in the second quarter because we weren’t quite expecting [the double team],” Coach Abernathy said. “Then we talked about it in halftime, and one of the big things we talked about is we said, ‘Hey, they cannot do that for another 16 minutes and have enough gas at the end of the game.’ And so we talked about like, ‘Hey, if we can weather a storm here for three, four minutes those gaps that are wide are going to get wider. And now more people are going to get open.’”
Saxony got within 11 points of Jackson at 33-22 near the end of the third quarter after junior guard/forward Laurel Mueller knocked down a 3-point shot.
Allstun received the ball from junior forward Mah Massey to score with a layup with 1:37 left in the third, which ended up being the final score of the quarter for Jackson to go up 35-22.
To start the fourth and final quarter of play, Mueller got Saxony back within 11 points of Jackson again after getting an offensive rebound and scoring two points off a layup.
Jackson’s junior Nikki Sotak then received an open look from beyond the arc and made her first and only 3-pointer of the game to give Jackson a 43-26 lead over Saxony with 5:44 left in the game.
Stafford was then the wide-open shooter for Jackson and put her team up 46-30 over Saxony with her fourth and final 3-pointer of the game.
“That’s hard to deal with, and again, you try to cover their outside shooters then their inside players hurt you and we’re just not good enough where we can stop both of those,” Coach Sides said. “We’ve got to take one away and try to live with the other one — we’ve just got some things we need to work on. And again, we just ran out of gas, too. We fought back, which was good. I think we got within 11 or 12, but we couldn’t get any closer. They’d come down and hit another three.”
Hermann and Stafford each made four 3-pointers in the game, and with Sotak also making one, Jackson scored a total of 27 points from beyond the arc.
“[Hermann and Stafford] put the time in — they work really, really hard,” Coach Abernathy said. “They are in [the gym] a lot of mornings — they stay late. They don’t make shots just because it was a lucky game — that’s how those kids can play. Honestly, sometimes offensively that’s how we need them to play. I’m so happy for both of them just because on the biggest stage they shot it really well, and all of that work they’ve put in kind of gets to come to the forefront in something like this.”
Five players from the championship game, three from Jackson and two from Saxony, were named to the All-Tournament team. For Jackson, it was Allstun, Sotak and Stafford with freshman Emma Brune and Mueller earning the honor for Saxony.
“There are some pretty good players out there, and there are four or five more we could sit here and argue about,” Coach Abernathy said. “They are good kids, and they’ve worked really, really hard, and one thing this group has done is they’ve all kind of bought in to our specific mold.
“I think you’ve seen all players in certain times have big games. I thought Nicole Humphreys had a really big game against Sikeston — played really, really well. In bits and pieces of all games you’ve seen players step up, and when maybe someone in front of them is not playing real well they’ve stepped in and did a good job. I think that’s something good teams do — they have kids step up when they need to step up, and that’s what they’ve done so far.”