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Ozark’s ‘Senior Night’ victory versus Carthage showcases gains Kent has made


For Zeffie, the zenith of her Ozark career is arriving at a most opportune time. Better late than never.

Zeffie Kent’s star continued its recent rapid rise Friday, as the senior guard matched her career-high by scoring 13 points in Ozark’s 50-19 ‘Senior Night’ beatdown of Carthage.

Kent has had three games scoring in double figures since her playing time increased vastly due to a broken nose suffered by Molly Rushing. 

“Not that we wanted Molly to go out or anything like that, but I thought it was a good time to show what I can do,” Kent said. “Coach (Doug) Hepler has given me a chance to show what I can do. It’s my senior year, I want to make it good and am doing everything I can to play my best for our team.”

“It’s always been there with Zeffie. She just needed more opportunity,” Hepler said. “She was ready and has shown what she can do and has shown it on a consistent basis. She’s been a nice boost of energy for us. 

“I give her a lot of credit,” he added. “It’s her senior year, she wasn’t getting the minutes she wanted and had every right to complain, but not one time did she complain and not one time did she stop encouraging her teammates. I’m proud of her.”

One would be hard pressed to find a more improved player.

Kent hasn’t simply enjoyed a hot streak and had things go her way offensively. She is contributing in many areas at both ends of the court.

“She is able to do all the little things,” Hepler said. “She sees the floor well and is a good passer. Defensively, she’s using her long arms to get tips on balls and is getting herself in the right position.”

Kent can be characterized as a late bloomer. She’s always been long and lanky for her age, but her coordination and confidence were lacking.

“I definitely grew into my body,” she said. “I’ve always had long arms. I’m still learning how to use that to my advantage. But I’ve been better with it recently. I’m way more confident now. I’m out there with my best friends, it’s been a lot of fun.”

By most estimates, the 5-foot-9 Kent has a wing span more typical of someone in the 5-11 or 6-0 range.

“I’ve never had (my wing span) measured, but I definitely think it’s longer than average for a (5-9) guard,” Kent said. “It helps me a lot. There are a lot of balls I don’t think I can get to (defensively), but then I’m so long that sometimes I’m able to shank them.”

Ozark (19-5 overall and 7-1 in the COC) has won 17 of its last 18 games since a 56-49 Pink & White first-round loss to Carthage in late December.

“We were so upset when we lost to them,” Kent said. “We knew we were going to show that we shouldn’t have lost to them. The first time we played them, we were playing selfish. At the beginning of the season, we weren’t working as a team. Throughout the season and now, we’re playing way better as a team. We have really good chemistry and we’re all super close.”

Looking back, Hepler doesn’t dismiss the notion that Ozark was better off losing to Carthage at the Pink & White. Hepler’s team went on to play consolation bracket games against much more beatable teams than it would have faced in the winners bracket.

“Hindsight is always 20/20 and you always want to win. But I don’t think it hurt us in any way,” Hepler said. “The girls had a chance to get some wins and get some confidence. Confidence is huge. When you have it, it’s nice and when you don’t have it, you’re always trying to find ways to have it.”

Ozark jumped on top of Carthage 19-5 Friday and never looked back. The 19 points for Carthage (11-14 and 3-5) is a season low.

Ozark’s 17 wins in 18 games was triggered by Hepler’s decision to change from man-to-man defense to a matchup zone.

“We switched to what I felt like we would do best,” Hepler said. “The girls have responded well to it. They have embraced the change and committed to it. I give them all the credit for their effort and willingness to change.

“We try to do some things that are unconventional and make people think a little bit,” he added. “Whatever happens on offense you can’t always control. Some nights you’re going to have great nights and some nights you’re not. But you can always play great defense. Your energy can always be there.” 

CARTHAGE (19) — Probert 1 0-0 2, Choate 1 0-0 2, Boyd 0 2-2 2, Yates 3 0-0 6, Shannon 2 3-4 7.

OZARK (50) — Boggs 2 0-0 5, Foley 2 0-0 6, Watson 3 0-1 8, Kent 5 3-4 13, Rivera 2 0-0 4, Kirkland 0 1-2 1, Putt 3 0-0 6, Soloman 2 3-3 7.

Carthage  5   4   6   4  - 19

Ozark      11 16 13 10 - 50

3-point goals - Foley 2, Watson 2, Boggs.