By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
The Joplin Eagles aren’t going to enter district competition on the type of note they would like.
Joplin quickly fell behind 18-2, and the Waynesville Tigers defeated the Eagles 57-21 Tuesday night at Missouri Southern’s Robert Ellis Young Gymnasium.
It was a difficult end to a difficult regular season for the Eagles.
“It’s just our lack of focus to believe and having that confidence,” Joplin coach Dustin Larsen said. “We’ve got to this point of the season and the expectation is that they’re not going to go that far. Too get past a hump like that, it’s not going to be easy every day. We’re just going to have to keep pushing through. That’s been the culture.”
Larsen said changing that culture is his goal. The Eagles hope to take a step in the right direction as they open district play against Springfield Central at 1 p.m. Saturday at Parkview.
“We’ve made a lot of great progress this season,” Larsen said. “The last two games we’ve taken a couple of steps back. It’s near district, so the thought process is that it’s almost over. The culture that we’re trying to build is that this is when it gets good. It’s a new season. Every team is 0-0. That’s one of those things we have to learn to embrace and get excited about.”
The Eagles took a 2-0 lead when 6-1 junior post Danielle Hollingshead scored inside at the 6:22 mark of the first quarter.
Waynesville responded with an 18-0 run, which included four consecutive baskets from the Tigers’ Hannah Bland. The junior forward scored 10 points in the first quarter and finished with 20 to lead all scorers.
Hollingshead made a jump shot at the end of the first quarter to cut Waynesville’s lead to 18-4. This time, Waynesville answered with a 13-0 run to go up 31-4 with 2:28 left in the half.
Joplin finished the half with a pair of free throws from sophomore Bailey Taylor and a putback at the buzzer by Hollingshead to make it a 31-8 halftime score.
“I was proud of our girls for coming out with intensity,” Waynesville coach Brittany Matlock said. “We still have a lot of things we can work on though.”
Hollingshead led the Eagles with eight points.
Sophomore guard Chelsey Howser added 10 for the Tigers.
Waynesville (11-12, 5-4 Ozark) will enter district competition on Monday at Rolla.