Looking back, Madi Braden likes to think Ozark coach David Brewer would have made the right decision no matter which way he went with what to do with his backcourt
Brewer briefly had Braden shift to shooting guard and hand her point-guard duties to rising sophomore Anna Hitt for the first few weeks of last season.
“He tried me at the two-guard to get me more shots, before he moved me back to point guard,” Braden said. “It doesn’t matter because we can both handle the ball.”
On nights like Monday and there have had many such nights, it’s been apparent returning Braden to point guard has certainly worked in Ozark’s favor. Braden was brilliant while at the controls of the Lady Tigers’ offense in their 53-43 triumph over Nixa.
She scored a team-high 14 points and was the key figure in helping Ozark work the clock and take the final shot of the second and third quarters. In addition, the Lady Tigers held the ball for the great majority of the final three-plus minutes of the fourth quarter to seal its victory.
“With our quickness and speed, if we move and screen well, it’s hard to get out and deny us and keep us from moving the ball around,” Brewer said. “I wasn’t really planning on stalling (and working the clock) all the way down in the fourth quarter. But we did a good job trimming the clock down. When you’re up by 12-13 points and trim the clock down by two or three minutes, it certainly gives you a better chance of holding on.”
“It doesn’t give (the opponent) a chance to do anything,” Braden added. “We have strong guard play. I have a lot of confidence in (Hitt). I know what she’s doing and she knows what I’m doing. We’re able to get the ball where it needs to go.”
Against pressure, where Ozark likes the ball to go most of all is in Braden’s hands.
“We basically try to get her open, get (the floor) cleared and she’ll make the right pass or play,” Brewer said. “We’ve enjoyed that for four years and are going to enjoy it for another six games before the post-season. It’s been a blessing to have her. It will be different next year handling the press without her.
”It can be a struggle to find a balance for a gal between being a scoring guard and a point guard,” he added. “Madi is pretty good at it.”
Braden scored eight points while outscoring Nixa by herself in the decisive third quarter. Ozark built its lead to 14 points, 44-30, by outscoring the Lady Eagles 14-6 in the third period.
“We talked about locking down defensively,” Brewer said. “We had a much better defensive effort in the second half.”
Nixa (8-11 overall and 2-1 in the COC) has lost five of its last six games.
“I felt like at the start of the third quarter we sped up a little bit,” Nixa coach Jennifer Perryman said. “What we were trying to do is be very patient. They were able to take us out of our rhythm. Other than that, our kids did a good job of executing what we asked them to do. But we’ve got to make shots. Until we can score consistently, it’s going to be tough for us. It’s tough to win games without scoring.”
Nixa forward Ali Kamies continued her breakout sophomore season with a 16-point effort.
“I’m not surprised. I expected this this from her,” Perryman said. “I expected it last year. I expected it this year and I’ll expect it the next two years. She’s working to grow in all aspects.
“Also, I’m proud of Gabby (Nielsen) for the way she’s leading this team. It’s not the senior season she envisioned, with us losing (Emily Edwards) and other personnel issues we’ve had. But she’s stayed true to the course. I believe it will pay off at some point.”
Ozark (16-4 and 3-0), which also had Hitt, Katie Mayes and Moriah Putt in double-digit scoring, stayed on track toward a conference showdown with undefeated Carl Junction next week.
Over Braden’s four-year career as a starter, the Lady Tigers are undefeated versus Nixa, having swept all five matchups. If the teams meet in the post-season this year, they would need to reach the Class 5 Quarterfinal round.
“In junior high, we went back and forth. We’d win and they’d win,” Braden said. “To go into high school and beat them all four years feels really good.”
NIXA (43) — Nielsen 3 2-6 9, A.Kamies 5 6-7 16, Gibbons 3 2-2 10, K. Kamies 1 0-0 2, Hines 1 2-4 4, Vincent 1 0-0 2. Totals 14 12-19 43.
OZARK (53) — Mayes 5 0-0 10, Hitt 5 1-2 11, Braden 5 1-2 14, Watson 1 0-0 2, Hanks 2 1-4 6, Putt 3 4-5 10. Totals 21 7-13 53.
Nixa 11 13 6 13 - 43
Ozark 15 15 14 9 - 53
3-point goals - Braden 3, Gibbons 2, Nielsen, Hanks.