By Mark Schremmer
OZARK, Mo. —
Webb City and West Plains may have been playing on a neutral site, but the Cardinals definitely could hear the roar of the opposing crowd.
“You come out there in a gym like that, and it was loud,” Webb City junior guard Mikaela Burgess said. “We were fighting against the crowd. Coach told us before the game that everyone out there may be against you, but everyone in this locker room is pulling for you.”
The Cardinals fought through the adversity — hitting 16 consecutive free throws at one point — and knocked off No. 2 West Plains 57-42 Wednesday night in the MSHSAA Class 4 sectional at Ozark High School.
Webb City (23-5) advances to play Sullivan (24-4) in the quarterfinals at 2:45 p.m. Saturday at Drury University in Springfield. Sullivan defeated Bolivar 51-41 in its sectional game.
Despite not having a senior on the roster, Webb City came up big in the clutch and outscored the Zizzers 31-19 in the second half.
“The kids showed a lot of poise,” Webb City coach Brad Shorter said.
West Plains (27-2) led 32-29 after senior guard Andrea Haney, who led the Zizzers with 19 points, made a pull-up jumper with about four minutes left in the third quarter.
Webb City sophomore forward Desirea Buerge answered with a pair of free throws, and freshman guard Lexey Kneib hit a 3-pointer with 3:10 left in the third quarter to give the Cardinals a 34-32 lead they never relinquished.
A pair of free throws by Casey Heger, an inside bucket by Buerge and a pair of treys by Burgess completed a 15-0 run and gave the Cardinals a 44-32 lead with 4:41 left in the game.
Switching to a zone defense, Webb City stifled the West Plains offense and kept the Zizzers scoreless for nearly eight minutes.
“We went to the zone partially because we were in foul trouble,” Shorter said. “But Haney likes to get inside, and our kids played hard. That was a big game for the Webb City program. I can’t give enough credit to Scott (Womack) and West Plains. That’s a very good ball club.”
While Burgess, who hit four 3-pointers, was instrumental in breaking the press and shooting from the outside, Buerge was the force Webb City needed inside. The sophomore scored 18 points with most coming in the paint.
“She’s a strong kid,” Shorter said. “When she’s playing on two feet, under control and balanced, she can be real aggressive and strong. She’s an animal.”
Heger added eight points for Webb City. Hannah Riggs contributed 14 for the Zizzers.