By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. —
The Webb City Cardinals are bound for Columbia.
Webb City’s girls basketball team defeated the Sullivan Eagles 55-39 in the MSHSAA Class 4 quarterfinals on Saturday at Drury University. The Cardinals will play Smithville in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
“It means everything to us,” said Webb City junior forward Casey Heger, who posted a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds. “We started the season unsure, not having any seniors, but we’ve come together and we’re playing as a team. We’re real excited.”
The Cardinals (24-5) overcame a slow start. Sullivan (24-5) jumped out to a 7-0 lead after Aleyssia Lucas scored twice inside and Demi Reed hit a 3-pointer.
“We just didn’t come out with the intensity that we had in the games before,” Webb City junior Kaitlin Beason said. “We were kind of flat, and we knew that. In the huddle, Coach Shorter said, ‘You got to get fired up.’ And we did. We answered.”
The Eagles still led 17-10 when Megan Brandt scored on a putback with 4:10 left in the first half.
Webb City answered with a 13-2 run to take a 23-19 lead into halftime. Heger started the run with a short jumper and a 3-pointer that both came after offensive rebounds.
Webb City coach Brad Shorter said he didn’t want the momentum to end, so he kept the team’s time in the locker room brief.
“That was an important part of the game,” Shorter said. “We talked as a coaching staff making sure that we got back on the floor, because we had the momentum. We didn’t want to stay in there and then come out and start again. We wanted to keep shooting and keep that momentum and ride it. That was big. The kids did a good job of focusing and making some baskets.”
The strategy seemed to work as Webb City freshman guard Lexey Kneib opened the third quarter with a pair of 3-pointers and Mikaela Burgess followed with another trey to stretch the Cardinal lead to 32-22.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals were playing exceptional defense, preventing Sullivan from making a field goal over a nine-minute stretch. Reed scored on a driving bucket to take a 19-17 lead with 2:08 left in the second quarter. The Eagles didn’t make another field goal until Lucas scored inside with 1:08 remaining in the third quarter. By that time, Webb City led 39-26.
“Their objective was trying to pound it inside,” Shorter said. “That is a very fundamentally sound basketball team. What I wanted our kids to understand was to box out, get the rebound and not give them second chances. In the first half, I felt like they got a lot of second chances we didn’t have to let them have. We came out on fire in the third quarter because we were playing to win.”
The Cardinals held Sullivan to 15 of 57 shooting (26.3 percent) for the game.
“They’re big and strong,” Sullivan coach Jason Merkel said. “Sometimes we’re able to kind of grind it out and get some things going in the paint. We weren’t able to do that very well. Plus, a lot of shots weren’t falling. We were pretty dismal shooting it.”
The shots were falling for Webb City as it made 10 of 19 shots in the second half.
Burgess led Webb City with 13 points. Desirea Buerge contributed nine, and Beason and Kneib scored eight each. Lucas led Sullivan with 15 points.
Webb City now must get ready for Smithville (25-4), which beat Notre Dame de Sion 44-43 on Saturday. The Cardinals are now two wins away from a state title.
“You can’t be happy with just getting there,” Shorter said. “If you’re happy with just getting there, you’re going home with fourth. We want to go up there with a mission. Our No. 1 goal this year was to win a state championship. A lot of people I don’t think put us in this position, but sometimes this time of year chips fall where they may. We’re playing well, and hopefully we can keep it up for another week.”