One year after finishing fourth in Class 4, the St. James basketball Lady Tigers are back in the MSHSAA Class 4 playoffs.
St. James (20-7), the top seed in the Class 4 District 3 Tournament, defended their home court and beat No. 2 Salem (17-11) in the title game, 57-49.
St. James Head Coach Terry Wells said it was a hard-fought contest by both teams, but his version of the Lady Tigers got off to the better start.
“I felt like my kids’ previous playoff experience helped them in the first quarter,” Wells said. “They played calm and took care of the ball and had good possessions and didn’t allow the environment of the packed house get to them. I felt that was important going into the game because I felt Salem may start a little bit nervous. You have to give Salem credit though, they calmed down in the second quarter and made a run on us, taking an 18-16 lead at one point.”
St. James won this battle of the two sets of Lady Tigers with quarterly leads of 13-7 after one, 29-23 at the half and 42-34 at the end of the third.
“We had a stretch in the second and third quarters where my kids kind of abandoned the defensive game plan and weren’t communicating and Salem was making us pay,” Wells said. “My kids calmed down however and made enough big plays down the stretch to get a district championship.”
Kendall Costoplos led St. James with 20 points on the night.
Livi Herron was the top outside shooter with four threes, finishing with 16 points.
Emily Recker was the third Lady Tiger to hit double figures, ending with 13 points.
Tessa Crocker and Rylee Hancock each scored four points.
“I’m proud of this group,” Wells said. “They are special and have dealt with so many injuries this year, and they have stuck together and are playing well at the right time. A district championship is a special feeling, and to be able to do it on our home court, these kids will always remember this.”
For Salem, Savannah Manthey’s 24 points were the top mark.
Other scorers included Ashton Bowers (10), Avery Erway (six), Emily Strange (four), Fayth Kaminski (three) and Regan Thompson (two).
St. James advanced to play Tuesday at the Farmington Civic Center against the Lift for Life Academy Charter (13-15).
The Lady Hawks, champions of Class 4 District 4, were the Class 3 state champions in 2021. Lift for Life Academy finished second in its Class 5 district last year.