Kori Roussell and her Ozark teammates actually took high-percentage shots Monday, although the Lady Tigers’ failure to get to 40 points for the seventh time this season would easily indicate otherwise.
Roussell repeatedly beat her defender off the dribble and gained penetration into the paint to set up her own shot or a look for a teammate. From there, though, things unraveled for Ozark down the stretch, leading to the Lady Tigers’ 39-36 overtime loss to Branson.
“You look at our shot opportunities and we were getting shots that we like,” Ozark coach Brandon Clift said. “You look at the kids taking the shots in those opportunities and they’re shots we like. We had some 3 opportunities, some pull-ups in the lane and some opportunities at the basket. They just didn't fall.”
“Once we started penetrating, open looks were everywhere, whether that be on the opp. side block or in the corner for a 3,” Roussell said.
Ozark (9-11 overall and 2-2 in the COC) was stuck on 34 for the final three minutes of regulation and the first three minutes of the overtime. During that stretch, the Lady Tigers missed three layups and were called for an offensive foul while attempting another layup.
Branson’s offense didn't do much, either, making for a dramatic, although hardly pretty, finish.
Finally, with :47 remaining in the extra period, Roussell found Hampton for a layup to give the Lady Tigers a short-lived 36-35 lead.
Branson won without making a field goal in overtime. The Lady Pirates hit four free throws in the final minute to gain a 39-36 lead.
After Ozark threw the ball out of bounds with 0.8 remaining, Branson called a timeout. The Lady Pirates promptly threw the ensuing in-bounds pass directly to Rousell at half-court. She fired away to try to force a second overtime, but was off target.
It’s Ozark’s first loss to Branson since 2017.
After scoring 69 points last week against Willard, Ozark totaled 76 points in losses to Webb City and Branson.
Branson center Taylor Foster stood out offensively, scoring 21 points.
“For us being undersized, trying to keep her off the glass and force her to take tough shots, I thought we did a pretty good job for the most part,” Clift said. “But she's a tough center. We tried to be physical and take things away from her. But when she gets going with that left hand, it's hard to get her stopped.”
Ozark received 11 points from Sydney Hampton, nine from Macey Sult and eight from Josey Roberts. Hampton’s rebounding totals weren’t available, but she likely had a double-double.
The 5-foot-5 Roussell made her presence felt by trying to get Ozark’s offense going with her quick bursts into the paint.
“Obviously, it's like going against trees,” Roussell said of taller defenders. “I feel like once I get in there, everything happens. I have a straight path to the basket and can go up with it, or if a post comes up to get me, I feel like I will have an opp.-side block to pass to or a corner 3 I can kick it out to. You just have to see where (the defenders) come from and where the open man will be.”
“She obviously isn't as tall as some players who play point guard,” Clift said. “But she has good floor vision, she keeps her head up and finds seams to get into. That's an asset. She'll continue to do good things for us.”