By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
Webb City’s girls return to the state basketball playoffs tonight with once-beaten West Plains the MSHSAA Class 4 sectional opponent.
Tipoff between the Cardinals (22-5) and second-ranked Zizzers (27-1) is scheduled for 7:45 at Ozark High School.
West Plains knocked off No. 3, defending champion Republic 59-58 in overtime to win the District 11 Tournament at Rogersville last Friday night.
Webb City hurdled old rival Carthage on its floor 49-42 to capture the District 12 Tournament on Saturday to reach the first round.
All-stater Andi Haney, a 5-foot-7 senior headed for NCAA Division II Harding University of Searcy, Ark., to join sophomore sister Tabitha, is the West Plains leader Webb City coach Brad Shorter said Tuesday.
“Andi Haney is a superb player ... a Division I point guard,” Shorter said. “She’s intelligent, she’s a hustler and she’s physical. She spends a lot of time on the floor diving after loose balls.
“The other thing that makes West Plains an outstanding team is that the players around her are talented,” Shorter said. “Sure, she makes them better. But those players are solid and they can beat you if you focus entirely on her.”
It was Hannah Riggs, a 5-6 senior, that connected at the buzzer in the overtime to beat Republic (25-2).
Haney, who’s scored more than 2,000 points to pass University of Missouri standout Kerensa Barr as the Zizzers’ career scoring leader, is averaging 24 points, 7.5 rebounds, 6 assists and 4.3 steals.
Added Shorter: “It’s a cliche, of course, but we have to take care of the ball and rebound. They play terrific defense (allowing an average of about 35 points) either full-court or half. We have to do a good job moving the ball.”
West Plains, 9-0 in the Ozark Conference, lost 43-38 to Ash Grove in the second round of the Greenwood Pink and White Classic in late December.
“We were ahead by eight points in the third quarter,” West Plains coach Scott Womack said. “Ash Grove picked it up and we kind of ran out of gas. We had three players fighting sickness. But credit Ash Grove. That’s a quality team.
“I felt good at the end of last season (about this season),” Womack said. “But I didn’t dream we would be 27-1.
“Their size and their ability to shoot the ball are concerns against the Cardinals,” Womack said. “They do an outstanding job running their offense. They don’t give up many points on defense, either.”
Probable starters for West Plains are Haney, Riggs, 5-9 junior Shelby Acklin, 5-8 junior BreAnna Harris and 5-7 sophomore Cassidy Johnson (who’s averaging 14 points).
Womack expects to call on 5-3 senior Kortnee Long, 5-8 sophomore Kelli Bowen and 5-6 sophomore Kelsey Collins off the bench.
Webb City will counter with 6-0 sophomore Desirea Buerge and four juniors in 5-8 Kaitlin Beason, 5-7 Mikaela Burgess, 6-2 Casey Heger and 5-7 Megan Heman.
Shorter, who’s assisted by Walter Resa and Nathan Dingman, probably will use 5-5 junior Asia Bemo, 5-7 junior Kenzie Cooper, 5-5 freshman Lexey Kneib, 5-6 sophomore Kaylee Reynolds and 5-6 freshman Peyton Rogers in reserve.
Scoring averages include 16.1 for Burgess, 13.7 for Buerge, 12.2 for Heger, 8.8 for Beason and 3.9 for Heman, Rebounding averages include Heger 7.5, Buerge 6.7 and Beason 5.1.
Burgess also is the leader in assists (2.7) and steals (2.2).
Webb City, which defeated the Zizzers in the quarterfinals in 2010-11, or West Plains will play the Bolivar-Sullivan winner at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday at Drury University in Springfield.