BURLINGTON JUNCTION, Mo. — Kaylin LaMaster came out on fire against East Atchison on Monday night in the opening pool-play game in the Northwest Missouri Tournament in Burlington Junction. Unfortunately for LaMaster’s South Nodaway squad, the entire Wolves team was hitting and they were able to pull away with a 68-49 victory.
LaMaster nailed threes on the first two possessions for South Nodaway as they jumped out to a 6-2 lead. The sophomore point guard added another first-quarter bucket to put her team in front 10-9, but that would be the last time the Longhorns would see a lead.
“She is a young player and last year, she got to feed off our point guards and the defense they drew,” South Nodaway coach Aaron Murphy said. “This year, she has to have the ball in her hands. She has to be the one to facilitate, creates and can beat her defender one-on-one. She is improving with each and every game.
“She can’t be satisfied and she knows that I will say that. She has to keep working just like like everyone else does. She made some really good plays.”
With the Wolves hounding LaMaster, she was unable to score for the remainder of the first half. East Atchison was able to turn its defense into offense with a 17-4 run to end the first quarter and begin the second quarter.
The Longhorns mounted a brief run with senior Liz Turpin converting an old-fashioned three-point play and sophomore Miya Wiederholt scoring four-straight points on whittle the margin down to 26-20.
The Wolves were able to retake control of the game before halftime with a 9-0 run to carry a 35-20 lead into the locker room.
South Nodaway was able to mount another rally attempt early in the third quarter with a 6-2 spurt to begin the half with three points from LaMaster, two from senior Alex Buckles and one from Turpin. After that, the lead was down to 37-26, but it never reached single digits as East Atchison responded with a 7-2 run.
Three points from Weiderholt got the margin to 12 points later in the third, but South Nodaway’s defense continued to struggle as the Wolves relentlessly attacked the rim, both off the dribble and on the offensive glass.
“There were some matchup disadvantages for us going into the game and we knew that going in,” Murphy said. “That is how we are going to get better, we aren’t going to get better by taking the easy way out and trying to zone them up — even if it might have kept us a little closer. We made a pact at the beginning that we we are going to go after teams on the half-court side this year. We went after them, but we just didn’t do go enough on the ball, we had to use our help too much and we were a little late on some rotations. We had trouble moving our feet and they got to the line a lot.”
The physicality of both teams resulted in a second half devoid of any kind of rhythm as the two teams combined for 50 fouls in the game — 25 on each team.
“A lot of our fouls were giving up offensive boards and those led to second and third possessions and putbacks,” Murphy said.
South Nodaway trimmed the lead to 11 once more on the first play of the fourth quarter on a Weiderholt inside move, but the Wolves won the free throw shooting contest in the fourth quarter. As the team exchanged trips to one another’s charity stripes, the Wolves slowly stretched the lead.
In the end, a 21-point margin will put the Wolves within a win over Nodaway-Holt of the championship game.
LaMaster led all scorers with 19 points. While her eight early points kept the Longhorns in the game through a quarter, the Wolves were able to hold her to just 11 in the final three quarters and they ran her off the three-point line as she no three-pointers after the first two possessions.
Behind LaMaster, it was a balanced scoring effort for South Nodaway with Turpin adding nine and Weiderholt and Buckles each scoring eight. Sophomore Hannah Wilmes and senior Dolores Holtman rounded out the scoring with two each.
“We didn’t play well enough on the defensive side to be satisfied,” Murphy said. “Offensively, when we ran offense, we converted, put up a good amount of points and attacked the basket. We have to be sharper on the defensive end.”
East Atchison had five players reach double figures with junior Kinley Thornill scoring 17, freshman Morgan Parshall netting 13, junior Lily Graves and freshman Mercedes Parshall each scoring 11 and Jaycee Graves adding 10. The Wolves managed their 21-point win despite star Kilea Cooper being held to just two points.
“They pose problems with us matching up,” Murphy said. “They are a little bigger and more physical in the key spots and they have height on the perimeter as well as inside. When you mix that with strength, it is a tough battle.”
South Nodaway will play its second pool-play game on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against Nodaway-Holt. East Atchison plays Nodaway-Holt on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.