The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

June 23, 2012

Quapaw girls make good showing at Freedom Shootout

Rod Graves, girls basketball coach at Quapaw High School, had no complaints after a 3-3 finish for his team on June 15-16 in the seventh annual McDonald’s Freedom Shootout at Bolivar, Mo.

Nearby Morrisville was host of the event that attracted 32 varsity teams, Graves said. Pool games were held on June 15 and those results determined bracket play the next day.

“We were fortunate to make the top eight — I believe they called it the Blue Flight — and unfortunately we were seeded at the bottom,” Graves said with a laugh on Saturday. “Our girls were thrilled to make the top eight.

“We beat Morrisville, lost to El Dorado Springs and beat Humansville in pool games,” Graves said. “We lost to West Plains before beating Willard and losing to Crane by three points for fifth place. Crane earlier defeated Bixby (Okla.).

“West Plains was very good,” Graves said. “They wound up winning their flight. I think we competed with everyone except West Plains. We played some quality teams. That’s what I wanted us to do.

“We had no idea how we would compete,” Graves said. “We were introduced to a lot of people we’d never met. We’ll return for another year, for sure.

“It was a good experience,” Graves said. “We enjoyed it. We were treated very well.”

Quapaw took 12 players, and former Wildcat Paige Radford, who’s attending Pittsburg State and is the daughter of Quapaw assistant Larry Radford, helped Graves.

Graves said Morrisville coach David Francka — the teams met in the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Tournament at Miami — suggested the Wildcats enter the Freedom Shootout.

Class 2A Quapaw finished 20-5 overall and 12-0 in the Lucky ‘7’ Conference in 2011-12. The Wildcats graduated just two players in Alyssa Ball, who was injured most of the campaign, and Hailey Heltzel.

“We return four of the five starters and all of our bench,” Graves said. “We can play big, or with guards, with those 12 players.”

Favorites, then, in the new-look Lucky ‘7’ Conference?

It’s a 12-team circuit with the addition of Colcord, Foyil, Ketchum, Oklahoma Union and South Coffeyville.

“Those teams will strengthen our conference especially in track, softball and basketball,” Graves said. “Colcord and Oklahoma Union each beat us twice in basketball last season.

“Realistically, I don’t pick us as the favorites,” Graves said. “Colcord just might be the favorite. (Coach) Mark Sherrell does a good job with them (the Hornets).

“Colcord has a solid player on the inside and has athletic guards,” Graves said. “They were underrated last season and lost in the first round of the state tournament. We’ll sure try to beat them. But they have the experience.”

Graves said the Wildcats’ girls 16-team summer league will finish on Tuesday with three games in both gyms starting at 5 p.m.

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