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Hampton extends Ozark career as Lady Tigers upset District host Glendale

OZARK'S SYDNEY HAMPTON dribbles along the perimeter.
OZARK'S SYDNEY HAMPTON dribbles along the perimeter.

SPRINGFIELD — Ozark and Glendale meeting in the opening round of Class 4 District 11 on Wednesday was the same first-round District matchup for the teams as a year ago.

But the Lady Tigers sent out a much different Sydney Hampton this time around, compared to how she was feeling last post-season.

A healthy Hampton contributed 24 points and seven rebounds to power No. 5 seed Ozark to an upset of No. 4 seed Glendale 44-42.

In contrast, last post-season she received late clearance to play and scored just four points in Ozark’s 50-42 win against the Lady Falcons.

“Last year, (doctors) thought I had fractured my neck, before they found out it was just a chronic illness,” Hampton said. “I came out a little weak for Districts. This year, it’s my senior season and being at 100 percent, I want to give it everything I can. I'm not playing in college, so this is my last time playing on the court. Every time I go out there might be my last game, so I want to give everything I have.”

Hampton did her homework on Glendale, preparing herself for a banner night.

“We had scouted them a lot and I watched three games on film on them last night,” Hampton said. “I think film pays off a lot. Getting to know who you’re playing helps you on offense and defense. It's my senior year, I didn't want this to be my last game. We were going to do just about anything we could to win this.”

Hampton’s preparation helped lead her to a 12-point first half in which she repeatedly found an opening in the middle of Glendale’s 1-2-2 zone.

“The high post was really open,” Hampton said. “I knew from film that (opening) would be there. But I don't think I realized how much it would be there. They weren't even closing out on me.” 

“They're really aggressive and try to get out (on the perimeter) and get steals,” coach Brandon Clift said of Glendale's defense. “I told the girls if we could take care of the ball on the perimeter, we would be able to slide Sydney into the high post. She’s a senior. She knows that was where she was going to find herself opportunities to score and make kick-outs. She has great vision. She can score from there or find her teammates.

“Syd decided she was going to leave it all out there tomight, no matter what happens,” he added. “I’m very proud of her.”

After Glendale adjusted at halftime and tried to take the high-post away from Hampton, she ventured outside and closed with an eight-point fourth quarter.

Back-to-back 3s by Hampton and backup freshman guard Avery Havens gave Ozark a 43-40 lead. Havens’ 3 with 1:22 remaining proved to be the game-winning shot.

“I came in as a sub and they hadn't seen me play, so they hadn't scouted me or seen me,” Havens said. “I don't think they were prepared for me. Right when I came in, I was wide open and I thought, ‘I’m nailing this.’”

“When she caught it, my thought was the same as hers, 'Shoot it,’” Clift said . “We have confidence in her that she's going to make that shot.” 

Glendale did not get a shot off upon in-bounding the ball with :5.7 remaining. The Lady Falcons were not in the bonus and thus the Lady Tigers were able to foul with  :1.7 to play.

Ozark picked up its most memorable post-season win since a first-round District victory against Nixa five years ago. Clift’s crew did so in comeback fashion.

The Lady Tigers spotted Glendale a 10-1 lead. Their turnover count was already at eight a mere 10 minutes into the contest. Ozark was 3-of-9 shooting from the field in the first quarter. Plus, Hampton was whistled for two fouls in the first quarter.

But over the final three quarters, the Lady Tigers were 14-of-29 shooting while hitting an ever-so important half-dozen 3-point goals. Most impressive, they cut their turnovers down to just two over the final 22 minutes.

Ozark’s defense held Glendale (20-7) more than 11 points below its season average of 53.7 points a game.

“The girls continued to battle,” Clift said. “I told them at halftime it was all about getting stops. In the second quarter, every time we would score we would give up a bucket. We had to stop that trend. The girls made them take tough shots all night.

“We have struggled offensively. But we have a strong defense,” Hampton said. “Most teams that play us have scored their lowest number against us or scored lower than what they're used to scoring.

“We've had a tough season and we were obviously the underdogs tonight,” she added. “It feels great to start out (Districts) with a win. I'm happy with our team.“

Ozark (13-13) will take on top-seeded Kickapoo (26-1) in a 5:30 p.m. semifinal Friday. The Lady Tigers lost to the Lady Chiefs 50-32 at the Pink & White Lady Classic.

"Coach (Leslie Hanchey) has done a great job with them in her first year,” Clift said. “They’re solid across the board. They shoot it well and they've got three (guards) who can penetrate, attack and cause problems inside.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge. I don't think the girls are scared of it,” he added. “They understand to respect the opponent because they've had a phenomenal year. We know we can guard and make them take tough shots. But can we keep them off the boards and get enough opportunities for us to score?”

“We're going to have to focus on slowing them down by working hard on defense and we’re going to have to execute on offense,” Hampton said. “It's going to be a hard game, But I think in this District there can be an upset at any time.”

Nixa earns rematch with Republic

No. 3 seed Nixa (21-6) rolled past Lebanon 96-52 in another first-round game.

It was a 25-24 ball game three minutes into the second quarter, before the Lady Eagles took a 46-30 lead into halftime. They followed up by scoring the first 10 points of the third quarter.

Brooke Teter scored 19 first-half points and finished with 29.

Nixa will face No. 2 seed Republic (22-4) in a semifinal Friday at 7 p.m. The Lady Eagles lost twice to the Lady Tigers in regular-season play.