Smith-Cotton 51, Marshall 48
After a year away from the game, Smith-Cotton girls basketball coach Jonathan Tester was anxious to begin the 2016-17 season.
Game one for the Lady Tigers offered no relief for Tester’s anxiety until the last second.
Smith-Cotton lost its lead on a halftime buzzer-beater, climbed back during the second half and actively held off Marshall through the game’s final minutes in a 51-48 win Monday in Sedalia.
Monique Grant led S-C with 15 points, Darby Christian scored nine points with 11 rebounds and Sophie Martin and Jessica Coble scored eight points apiece.
Tester said he’s excited for the rest of the year after a competitive victory marked his first at S-C.
“This isn’t the end result of three weeks of practice,” Tester said. “This is the beginning. I’m proud of them that they worked hard and they saw some positive results tonight.”
The Lady Tigers opened the game on a 6-1 run, and led 8-3 after the first quarter. The Lady Owls chipped away at its deficit, and led for the first time, 22-20 at half, after a Taylor Crawford running 3-pointer at the buzzer.
After trailing by as many as 10 points in the third quarter, Smith-Cotton up ground when starting Marshall guard Lyssa Agcalon fouled out.
Nia Hawkins denied Marshall guard Kassidy Heying the ball for the remainder of the game.
Tester comended Hawkins’ defensive effort.
“Nia did a great job of playing no-help defense,” Tester said.
Sophie Martin tied the game at 43 after getting fouled on a putback, rebounding her missed free throw and scoring again.
Darby Christian found Jorey Luebbert on a fast break after a Smith-Cotton timeout. Heying answered with a layup to keep Marshall within one.
The Lady Owls were forced to foul with four seconds to play after committing a double-dribble on its final possession. Jessica Coble, in her first S-C basketball game since freshman year, sank both free throws to ice the game.
Tester said based off game one, he and the team are optimistic about the rest of the season.
“We wanted to see where we were at,” Tester said. “For us to come out and compete for four quarters, and to get it done down the stretch in a tight game tells us that we’ve got a lot of opportunity ahead of us.”
Smith-Cotton (1-0) faces Grain Valley 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28 at the Marshall basketball tournament in Marshall.
Smith-Cotton 72, Marshall 48
For all its apparent weaknesses — size, perimeter depth, non-returners from last season — the Smith-Cotton boys basketball team cleaned up nicely for its season opener.
Before the season, head coach Bill Barton said the Tigers will make up for an inherent scoring deficiency with sturdy defense. Smith-Cotton silenced the Owls for seven minutes to begin the second half, and built a lead as large as 25 in a 75-48 victory Monday in Sedalia.
Despite the win, Barton said the Tigers’ defense could stand to improve.
“We’re not a big team,” Barton said. “We’ve got to get better defensively. If we do that, we can stay in a lot of ballgames.”
During the third-quarter drought, Marshall head coach Jason Varner instructed his players to spread the floor and find a mismatch. With effort, the Tigers covered up its imperfections.
The Owls managed just seven points in the third quarter, and the Tigers led 46-29 after a Bryson Couch layup.
Couch, entering the game’s final 10 minutes, was only warming up. He finished the game with 25 points and hit four of his five threes on the night in the fourth quarter. Couch’s final trey increased the lead to 69-42.
“Bryson really lit it up, didn’t he?” Barton said.
The Tigers led 11-5 early after easy layups from Zion Buckner and Derek Gehlken. Keoni Hale increased the lead to 20-9 with a fast break dunk. Buckner finished with 20 points and Hale scored 17.
Marshall responded with a 7-1 run capped by a Jaylin Varner putback on a missed free throw attempt, and cut the Owls’ deficit to 21-17.
Gehlken’s 3-pointer before half made it 28-21, Smith-Cotton.
Smith-Cotton raced to the double bonus in the first half, and shot 20-of-30 from the charity stripe Monday.
The Tigers face Camdenton 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29 at the Marshall basketball tournament in Marshall, and face a potential rematch with the Owls, who are on the same side of the bracket’s fold.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2.