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'The day we were dreading most' arrives for Lady Tigers seniors Hampton and Sult

OZARK'S KAYLEE LINNEBUR fights for the ball.
OZARK'S KAYLEE LINNEBUR fights for the ball.

SPRINGFIELD — Sydney Hampton and Macey Sult suited up as teammates for the final time Friday, as Ozark was dealt a 49-28 Class 6 District 5 semifinal defeat at the hands of Kickapoo.

The Lady Tigers’ senior duo have played alongside each other in school ball and travel going back to when they were in the second grade.

“We've talked about the day we’re never going to step on the court together again and this was the day we were dreading most,” Hampton said. “We're glad we got to spend all that time together. We have so many memories from travel ball and school ball. They’re lifetime memories. 

“I don't know what it's like to not have Sydney on the floor with me. That's all I've known,” Sult said. “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to share 10 years with her. It's meant everything to me. I love playing with her.

“I've dreaded this day as long as I've played basketball," she added. ‘It’s hard to leave high school. All we've been working for forever has been to play Ozark basketball.”

Sult will continue her hoops career at Evangel, while Hampton will attend Missouri State and pursue a nursing degree. Naturally, Sult tried to convince Hampton to join her and play at Evangel.

“She has her mind made up and I know she's going to do great things,” Sult said.

Ozark (13-14) ran into Kickapoo full-court pressure that proved overwhelming. The Lady Tigers committed 15 turnovers in the first half, with many of the giveaways leading to fast-break points for the Lady Chiefs (27-1).

Kickapoo's half-court defense was just as impressive.

“You can see how active they are defensively and they cover ground really well.," coach Brandon Clift said. "They did a good job limiting us getting off 3s. Inside, they do such a great job taking away the high post. We had limited opportunities."

Ozark was 3-of-11 on 3-point attempts and that was including a half-court heave before halftime by Kori Roussell. The Lady Tigers were again without one of their best 3-point shooters in Josey Roberts, who missed a seventh straight game due to a sprained ankle.

“They have a really wide zone, so it's hard to get 3s off against them,” Sult said. ‘It’s hard to get in the paint against them, too, because they have big players.”

Sult and Hampton both scored a team-high eight points. 

Hampton, who had 24 points in Ozark’s first-round upset of Glendale, was 2-of-7 from the field. 

"Their pressure, it's hard to do anything against it, honestly,” Hampton said. “I couldn't figure out what to do on offense. I was stuck the whole time. Unless it was a quick-release shot, it wasn't there.

They're a great team and can go really far," she added. “They have great offense and a great defense.”

Of some consolation to Ozark from a defensive standpoint, the Lady Chiefs kept Kickapoo in the 40s.

“We can guard. Our defensive effort, the way we move and cover, we continually have held people under their scoring averages,” Clift said. “Outside of the transition points for Kickapoo, I felt we did a nice job defensively tonight, as well.”