Deason, Guehne Defend

Fulton’s NaShayla Brandt is defended by St. Clair’s Sam Deason, left, and Katelyn Guehne during opening round action of the U.S. Bank Rolla Girls Basketball Tournament at Rolla High School. Also shown in the background are St. Clair’s Alicia York and Fulton’s Baileigh Horstmeier. St. Clair defeated Fulton, 60-56.

In a game that was back-and-forth for almost the entire way, St. Clair advanced at the U.S. Bank Rolla Girls Basketball Tournament with a win Thursday over Fulton.

The Lady Bulldogs (2-4) trailed 51-47 with four minutes left to play in the game, but ended the contest on a 13-5 run for a 60-56 victory at Rolla High School.

“To win the first game of the tournament and to not start on a negative note was really big for us,” said St. Clair Head Coach Jena Carroll. “We needed this. It was good to win a close game like this and get to the semifinals.”

St. Clair was scheduled to play Waynesville in the championship semifinals Friday at 6:30 p.m. The other semifinal game was St. James against Rolla.

St. James (8-1) opened the tournament Thursday with a 72-18 victory over Houston.

Other first-round results were Rolla defeating Smith-Cotton 44-31 and Waynesville knocking off Newburg, 47-41.

The tournament concludes Saturday. The third-place game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. The championship game runs at 6:30 p.m.

“Our game against Waynesville earlier in the season got postponed, so we haven’t seen them. We know St. James is a powerhouse,” Carroll said. “We’ll take each day as it comes and hopefully we’ll continue to play well. We just want to compete and give ourselves a chance every day.”

Karissa Hoffman controlled the inside for the Lady Bulldogs, finishing with 18 points.

“We’ve been waiting for Karissa to have her breakout moment this season and tonight was it,” Carroll said. “She did a really good job.”

Fellow post player Katelyn Guehne added 11 points.

“Our bigs did a really good job of finding ways to score. Karissa and Katelyn, those two were a big reason why we were able to put points on the board,” Carroll said. “Our guards did a much better job of finding them. A lot of times our bigs are open, but we can’t figure out how to get it to them. All across the board, we had several assists and several points inside.”

Allison Hinson finished the game with nine points.

Sam Deason and Kelsey Wachter both scored seven points.

Alicia York chipped in with six points. Halley Cokley had two points.

Emily Presley and Miranda Murphy also played.

Sloane Totta and NaShayla Brandt, both sophomores, led the Lady Hornets with 18 points and 15 points, respectively.

“We eventually went to a triangle and two to get (Totta and Brandt) to work harder for their points,” Carroll said. “Both of them are really good players. Sloane can hit a three-pointer from anywhere.”

Rachel Guse finished the game with eight points. Gentry Totta added six points. Baileigh Horstmeier scored five points. Kenzie Shaw had four points.

St. Clair jumped to an early 15-8 lead, but it was trimmed to 17-16 after one quarter.

Fulton held leads of 26-25 at halftime and 43-41 after three quarters.

St. Clair turned up its defensive pressure, which helped make the difference down the stretch.

“We tried probably six different defenses on the night. We kept switching things up because they found ways around them,” Carroll said. “When we picked up our defensive intensity, we were able to get steals and convert them to points.”

Trailing 51-49, the Lady Bulldogs went on a 6-0 run to take the lead for good, 55-51.

They extended the lead to 59-53 with 58 seconds remaining on the clock.

Hoffman, Hinson, Wachter and Guehne all had points during the run.

“Kelsey hit two big shots down the stretch, which was a big motivator for us in the fourth quarter,” Carroll said. “Our girls found ways to make things happen, and that’s what you have to do. We had a lot of good contributions. We know it doesn’t have to be the same five players every night. It’s different people stepping up in different ways.”