At times, it seemed as if the Ozark Tigers couldn’t miss.
Propelled by blistering perimeter shooting, the Ozark High School girls basketball team remained undefeated in Central Ozark Conference play with a dominant 61-11 win over Joplin on Monday night inside Kaminsky Gymnasium.
Ranked sixth in Class 5 by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association, Ozark improved to 18-4 overall and 5-0 in COC play.
Joplin coach Jeff Williams acknowledged his Eagles simply ran into a formidable foe.
“They’re a very good team, and they showed they deserve their ranking in the state,” Williams said. “They shot the ball well, and we couldn’t get shots to fall.”
Ozark connected on 12 3-pointers in the game. Simply put, the Tigers were able to get high-percentage shots against the Eagles whether they were facing a 2-3 zone or a man-to-man defense.
“We shot the ball well from the perimeter,” Ozark coach David Brewer said. “We tried to keep a lot of movement, and our inside players made good decisions to kick it back out. When you shoot it like we did tonight, it makes it difficult for a zone to cover. We had multiple girls hitting them. We built that lead, and the girls relaxed and were shooting the ball comfortably. I think that makes a big difference.”
Senior guard Olivia Hanks scored a game-high 23 points and hit seven 3-pointers.
“I don’t remember her even missing any tonight,” Brewer said.
Lyla Watson and Katie Mayes added 12 points apiece for the Tigers. Watson made four treys.
Senior guard Gabby Quinn scored nine of Joplin’s 11 points.
“I thought Gabby played her tail off tonight,” Williams said. “She played hard and she played well for us. She handled the ball well and rebounded the ball well.”
Up 15-3 by the end of the first quarter, hot-shooting Ozark outscored Joplin 22-2 in the second period, drilling six 3-pointers along the way, to take a commanding 37-5 halftime advantage.
“I thought we could have contested shots better,” Williams said. “Our hands were out instead of up. We could have closed out better too.”
The Tigers went up 45-5 after a trey from Hanks.
Quinn knocked down a midrange jumper and then converted a steal into a layup for the hosts, but the Eagles still trailed 52-9. There was a running clock in the final frame.
Joplin is playing without senior forward Addison Wallace and sophomore forward Ella Hafer, as both players suffered season-ending injuries.
“It hurts, and we’ve had to learn to play without them,” Williams said. “There’s no doubt Ella is a pretty good basketball player. I think by this point she’d have really come along nicely. And Addie is a really good rebounder. To lose two players for the season is sad and unfortunate.”
Joplin (3-17, O-5 COC) hosts Republic (13-7, 3-1 COC) on Thursday night. Republic just beat third-ranked Jefferson City 60-57.
“We need to get back to work and prepare for another good team,” Williams said. “We just have to keep trying to get better. We’ll need to shoot it better and play better defense on Thursday.”
Also of note, the Joplin boys (14-5, 3-1 COC) host Ozark (13-7, 3-0 COC) at 7:30 tonight.
THURSDAY NIGHT SHOWDOWN
Carl Junction’s girls will host Ozark on Thursday night in a key COC clash between state-ranked squads.
The Bulldogs, ranked fourth in Class 4, are currently the only other undefeated team in the COC.
Carl Junction (17-0, 4-0 COC) plays at Webb City (10-9, 2-2 COC) at 6 p.m. tonight.
If the Bulldogs win inside the Cardinal Dome, Thursday’s showdown will be for first place in the conference standings.
“We understand they’ve already beaten Republic, which is one of the better teams in the conference,” Brewer said of the Bulldogs. “Thursday is a vital game to the COC championship. We’re on a nice little run, so we want to keep our momentum. It's a game we've been looking at. It’s going to be fun.”