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St. John: Back in title chase

Class 1A D-I state basketball

POSTED March 6, 2012 11:05 p.m.

St. John, a small farming community of nearly 1,300, is located south of Great Bend, a 30-minute drive down U.S. Highway 281.
The St. John High School Lady Tigers are on the fast track to becoming a Class 1A Division-I powerhouse in girls sports.
St. John is headed for the state tournament for the third time in the last four seasons under fourth-year head coach Danny Smith on Thursday. A number of these Lady Tigers also made four consecutive state appearances in volleyball.
“We felt like we should have been there last year,” said Smith, whose basketball team won a state title during his first season in 2008-09 and finished third two seasons ago. “We just really missed out and I think it helped us get there this year, wanting to get back there.”
After losing to South Central in a sub-state championship game in 2010-11, St. John exacted revenge in a big way with a lopsided 44-25 triumph in a sub-state title-game rematch with the Timberwolves on their home court.
On Thursday night at 8:15, third-seeded St. John (21-2) takes on No. 6 seed Caldwell (17-7) in an opening-round state tournament game at White Auditorium in Emporia. The winning team advances to play the winner of No. 2 seed Waverly (21-2) and seventh-seeded Centralia (15-9) on Friday night at 6:30.
In the Lady Tigers’ sub-state triumph over South Central, they had a game-changing 20-0 run in the third quarter to turn a tight 11-10 game at halftime into their favor.
“It’s not so much the runs as it is just being able to make plays when you need to,” said Smith of his team being game-ready for a bigger stage. “We struggled to make shots in the first half and struggled to make plays (against South Central).
“We did much better in the third quarter. We feel like if we play like we did in the second half against South Central, we’ll be tough to beat.”
Senior post player Teresa Wade is averaging nearly a double-double with 17-point scoring averaging and 9.0 rebounding clip. She is a four-year player, thus will be enjoying her third state tournament.
“It’s not so much her being there in basketball, but she was also there (at the state tournament) all four years in volleyball, winning the state championship in three of those four years,” Smith said of Wade. “Of all of the other girls, she’s used to the environment and she doesn’t get nervous and is a big-stage performer.
“We’re hoping our eyes aren’t too big.”
Winning a state championship is the team’s ultimate goal, although it is something that normally goes unspoken.
“Even though we know we have to take it a game at a time and not look ahead, that’s been their goal,” Smith said, “even though we haven’t talked about it.
“We have Jamie (Waters) and Morgan (Osborne) that are very experienced guards for me. They’re both juniors and they have played a lot of games. Jamie also started as a freshman and Morgan started some as a freshman. Those two are our team leaders and they have helped the other girls grow. Having their presence out there is sure refreshing.”
Smith said his team having a decided height advantage should work in St. John’s favor against Caldwell, which is located south near the Oklahoma border.
“They don’t have very much size and, of course, we have pretty good size and quickness and should cause them a lot of problems with our defensive pressure,” Smith said. “We’re focusing on them, but at the same time, we have the intention of being here three days and playing three days in a row — Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“It’s not about beating one opponent. It’s about being ready for the tournament, in general, for three days.”
The Lady Tigers have overcome illness and injury this season, namely Waters and sophomore guard Tia Smith, Danny Smith’s daughter, having meniscus knee surgeries before returning to the court.


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