The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 13, 2013

Webb City battles Smithville in Class 4 semifinals

Don’t get them wrong. The Webb City Cardinals are certainly excited about making it to the MSHSAA Class 4 semifinals and playing at Mizzou Arena.

However, they still want more. After all, the Cardinals are two wins away from a state championship.

“This is where we wanted to be, but we’re by no means done,” Webb City junior point guard Mikaela Burgess said. “We have two games left, and we’re ready.”

The Webb City girls basketball team (24-5) will face Smithville (25-4) at 8:30 p.m. today in Columbia, Mo., with a berth in Saturday’s finals on the line. Dexter (26-3) faces Incarnate Word Academy (29-0) in the other semifinal game at 6:50 p.m.

“They’ve really come a long way and have shown what you can do when you believe,” Webb City coach Brad Shorter said. “It’s been a tough, challenging season for all of us, but we’ve put ourselves in a good position. Hopefully, we can get up there and get the job done. We’re certainly going in to it to win the thing, not just being happy to be there.”

Webb City is on a five-game winning streak since losing 35-32 to Nixa on Feb. 14.

Burgess leads the Cardinals with 16.2 points per game, while 6-foot sophomore Desirea Buerge (13.7) and 6-2 junior Casey Heger (12.0) also average double figures. Those three, along with junior Kaitlin Beason, have all scored 20 points in a game.

Heger (7.7), Buerge (6.7) and Beason (5.1) lead the team in rebounds. Burgess (2.8), Beason (2.7) and junior Megan Heman (2.0) pace the squad in assists.

Webb City is faced with a Smithville team which has advanced to the semifinals three years in a row. The Warriors fell 53-51 to Republic in last year’s Class 4 state finals.

“We got to play our defense, hustle and make sure we rebound,” Heman said. “We have to keep doing everything we’ve done to get here.”

Smithville is coming off a dramatic 44-43 win against Notre Dame de Sion in the quarterfinals. Trailing by one with five seconds left, Smithville’s Maddie Nelson made a driving bucket to win the game at the buzzer.

Nelson, the Warriors’ point guard, is a player to watch, Shorter said.

“The person that makes them go is Maddie Nelson,” Shorter said. “She handles the ball real well, passes well and shoots well.”

Paige Imhoff is another player who was crucial in Smithville’s runner-up finish last season.

“She’s quite a player,” Shorter said. “She moves the floor extremely well for her size and her position.

“Those two are going to be keys for us. We need to stop those two and make sure some others don’t go off and have big nights.”

If Webb City wins, it will play the Incarnate and Dexter winner at 4:50 p.m. Saturday. If the Cardinals lose, they will be in the third-place game at 1:40 p.m. Friday.

The other side of the bracket appears difficult as Incarnate is unbeaten and is coming off a 78-26 win over Kirksville in the quarterfinals.

Tonight’s Webb City game is scheduled to be webcast on FOXSportsMidwest.com.

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