Ozark guard Olivia Hanks’ self-assessment of the Lady Tigers has changed over the course of the season. Once known as zone-busters, she thinks they’re now the team opponents don’t want to allow to go 1-on-1 opposite a man defense.
“I think zone might be our weakness,” Hanks said. “But we do good against either (defense). We adjust and play accordingly.”
It took nearly all of the first three quarters, but Ozark finally adjusted and solved Carl Junction’s 2-3 zone Thursday en route to a 53-35 victory. The Lady Tigers (15-5) remained undefeated in COC play, improving to 6-0.
This one turned around in a hurry. The Lady Bulldogs were up 28-23 with 3:25 to play in the third quarter. By the 4:00 mark of the fourth quarter, Ozark was in command 45-31.
A 22-3 run by the hosts for those of you keeping score at home.
Hanks hit all three of her 3s during that stretch.
“I was waiting for my shots and I found them toward the end of the game,” Hanks said. “We were looking to get it inside and then kick it out. We were waiting for the perfect shot.”
“We talk about inside-out 3s, that’s what we want,” coach David Brewer added. “The ball comes internal to either Annie (Scheer) or Katie (Mayes) and they are able to kick it out to shooters who are faced up, squared, balanced and ready to shoot. Olivia is going to make a high percentage of those kind of shots.”
The Lady Tigers fired on all cylinders immediately after Brewer was whistled for a technical foul. They said it was no coincidence.
“Coach got a warning for saying something and then got a technical for the way he looked at the ref,” Mayes said. “That was motivation for us. We were thinking, ‘Our coach can’t coach us on, so we’re just going to coach ourselves and get through this since he can’t speak up.’”
“That ignited us,” Hanks added. “We pushed ourselves to play better after that. That’s how are sometimes. We get off to a slow start and then we kick it in to gear. That’s what happened tonight. We finally kicked it in gear in the fourth quarter.”
Things went so good for Ozark late that the Lady Tigers actually played better 2-3 zone defense than Carl Junction. For the Lady Bulldogs, a 2-3 zone was their trademark during back-to-back Class 4 Final Four berths the last two seasons.
Ozark’s zone held Carl Junction to four points in the fourth quarter. Center Katie Scott had 23 points through three quarters, but just two in the fourth.
“Even though we don’t really play a 2-3, every kid has played it at some point in their lives,” Brewer said. “We decided to go to a 2-3 zone, pack it in tight and make them shoot it (from the outside). You could see they didn’t really want to shoot it and I don’t think they’re capable of that. We just had to find a way to keep (Scott) from getting the ball.”
Mayes was most often matched up against Scott.
“She’s big and tall and difficult to guard,” Mayes said. “My teammates were helping me by collapsing on her. That made it easier, with their help. She could just power right through me. I tried to take a charge but they wouldn’t call it. I really wasn’t expecting them to. But I was able to go around her and front her and then my teammates would help back-side and we would sandwich her.”
Mayes held her own on offense as well, scoring 15 points. Scheer and Madi Braden both added 10.
Ozark finds itself two-thirds the way through its COC slate and still thinking perfection. Ditto for Republic. It’s a pleasant surprise for Brewer, who figured prior to conference play that no team would complete COC play undefeated.
“I thought it would be difficult to do and it may still be difficult,” he said. “Willard is good and we also still have Carthage and Republic, which, of course, beat us at the Pink & White. (The conference) is looking different than what I expected. We’ll see how it goes from here.”
CARL JUNCTION (35) — Wrensch 1 0-0 2, Shanks 1 1-2 3, Hughes 2 1-3 5, Scott 9 7-9 25. Totals 13 9-14 35.
OZARK (53) — Mayes 6 3-5 15, Hitt 3 1-2 7, Norton 1 0-1 2, Braden 3 2-2 10, Hanks 3 0-0 9, Scheer 4 1-3 10. Totals 20 7-13 53.
Carl Junction 12 3 16 4 - 35
Ozark 8 13 13 19 - 53
3-point goals — Hanks 3, Braden 2, Scheer.