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Good shots not good enough, improved Lady Eagles offense continues to 'get great shots'


Nixa veterans Lily Mahy and Sadie Conway have seen it all over four seasons and they love what they're currently seeing out of the Lady Eagles' offense as much as anytime during their careers.

Nixa put up 40 first-half points en route to a 66-35 whipping of Francis Howell Central on Thursday in the first round of the NIT.

The Lady Eagles (11-3) are averaging 63.6 points a game, an increase of nearly six points a game from last season.  In addition, coach Jenny Talbert’s team is averaging 67.2 points a night over its last 10 games.

At its current pace, Nixa has a chance to challenge the 2020-21 Lady Eagles and their 65.2 scoring average as the highest scoring Nixa team over the past 15 seasons. 

“I would say we're utilizing everyone on the floor, instead of relying on one person to do all our scoring. We relied on Norah (Clark) to do a lot last year,” Mahy said. “When you rely on one girl, teams can send a double-team or even a triple-team at you. When you have weapons everywhere on the floor, it's a lot harder to defend.

“This year we're moving the ball around and everyone is contributing in their own way,” she added. “We’ve had a lot of people step up who didn’t contribute last year.”

“Everyone is ranging from 6-12 points a game,” Conway said. “We’ll have a few people who will have standout games, but nothing crazy. We're all contributing. We utilize everyone on the court.”

Any pre-season questions, and there were plenty, regarding Nixa’s offense have certainly been answered.

“Going into the season, it was kind of like going in blind because we relied on Norah so much last year,” Conway said. “We didn't know how we would fill that role. We aren't relying on one person to fill that role. Everyone is showcasing what they can do. I think it's working better than relying on one person.”

Nixa easily handled Francis Howell Central (7-2), with Brooke Teter scoring 12 points, Mahy 11, Taylor Wood 10 and Conway nine. Wood was 8-of-8 at the free-throw line.

Conway had all nine of her points in the first half. She closed a 25-point Lady Eagles second quarter with a layup at the buzzer.

Nixa has made huge strides in its half-court offense. In past seasons, if the Lady Eagles weren’t hitting their 3-pointers or scoring off of their opponent’s turnovers, they would typically endure a subpar night while missing forced 3s.

This season, Nixa’s half-court sets are more effective and the result has been more points in the paint.

The Lady Eagles put the turbo clock into effect against Francis Howell Central while making a modest four 3s.

“We were patient and let the defense show us openings,” Talbert said. “We've been stressing to the girls to take high-percentage shots. We're a good 3-point shooting team. But for some possessions a 3-point shot isn't the best shot. Maybe a girl has a look from 3, but another girl has a two-footer. We're going to hit the two-footer. Instead of just good shots, we're going to try to get great shots every possession.”

Mahy and Conway are Nixa’s best 3-point shooters, but they’ve whole-heartedly bought in to working the ball to get a look around the bucket.

“We relied heavily on the 3 (in the past) because if our main scorer wasn't on, how were we going to score,” Conway said. “This year, after a few reversals, somebody is going to be open. We’re giving up a good shot for a great shot.”

“We have talented girls who can shoot well and also can slash to the rim,” Mahy said. “We talk about passing up a good shot for a great shot all the time.”

The Lady Eagles were just as impressive Thursday on the defensive end. 

“We talked about overwhelming them and having relentless pressure. That was our theme for the game and it's been our theme for a lot of games,” Talbert said. “We want to keep coming at teams. We have depth. We have a lot of bodies that can play. We might as well keep coming at them with fresh legs and fresh active hands.”

Nixa advances to the semifinal round and will meet Republic (9-4).

The Lady Eagles are out to end a streak of four seasons without an NIT championship.

“You go into your own tournament thinking, 'Alright, this is our show, we're going to win it on our home floor,’” Conway said. “But then someone else has come in and (left) saying, 'We just won the NIT!' We've been like, 'Oh, great.' It's definitely been a bummer.”

“I had a goal to get one tournament championship my senior year,” Mahy said. “I think we can do it this time.”