Houston's Haylee Kell, left, Kaitlyn Kell attempt to close a double team.

Houston Lady Tigers coach Brent Kell is searching for answers to his team’s sluggish third quarters. He said the solution may be not taking a halftime break at all.

“I’m toying with staying out on the floor,” Kell said. “I’ve done that before a few years ago.”

Consecutive poor third quarters twice cost the Lady Tigers chances at victories the past week.

On Thursday, Houston led Mountain Grove by a point at the half and trailed by nine entering the fourth quarter. The Lady Tigers eventually lost 53-50.

In Monday’s first round of the Mountain Grove Tournament, Houston trailed by two at the half before Willow Springs outscored the Lady Tigers 21-10 in the third en route to a 51-36 victory.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to come out of the locker room after the half,” Kell said. “We’ve come out and given up some leads and other times they pull away from us.

“It’s not like we go in there and lay around or don’t do anything. We’re teaching and making adjustments. But we come out with no life.”

Senior Erica Keeney scored a game-high 15 points in Monday’s loss to Willow Springs. She was the lone Houston player in double figures.

After managing one first-quarter field goal, the Lady Tigers erased an early eight-point deficit with a strong second quarter. Houston trailed 22-20 at the break — a vast improvement from the team’s 21-point halftime deficit the last time the teams played.

But the Lady Tigers (2-10) were 2-for-11 from the field in the third quarter as Willow Springs extended its two-point advantage to 13.

“We go in 4, 5, 6 minute scoring droughts, and usually it’s the third quarter,” Kell said. “Sometimes we try to force the ball into our post — that is the strength of our team — but we’re passing up a lot of good shots.”

On Thursday inside Hiett Gymnasium, Tory Burgess hit three 3-pointers and scored a team-high 12 points in the Lady Tigers’ loss to Mountain Grove. Sophomore Alexa Ichord added 10.

Burgess scored six consecutive points midway through the second quarter to put Houston ahead 23-17. The advantage shrunk to one at the half.

The Lady Tigers were clinging to a 34-33 lead following Keeney’s basket midway through the third. But Mountain Grove scored 10 unanswered points for a 43-34 advantage entering the fourth quarter.

Keeney was on the bench with four fouls during the Lady Panther’s spurt. She and forward Elizabeth Hayes both fouled out.

“I thought we played well for 3 1/2 quarters. I thought we outplayed them,” Kell said. “We’re still looking for a second and third consistent scorer. We’ll have someone get 10 or 12 points one game and won’t score the next one. Just no consistency.”

Box scores

Monday’s game

Houston 5 15 10 6 — 36

Willow Springs 13 9 21 8 — 51

HOUSTON (36) — Alexa Ichord 4. Kaitlyn Kell 2. Tory Burgess 8. Amber Sillyman 3. Haylee Kell 4. Erica Keeney 15. FG 13. FT 7-13. F 14. (3-pointers: Burgess 2, Sillyman)

WILLOW SPRINGS (51) — Kamryn Hutsell 7. Kayla Roberts 1. Alissa Chapman 2. Alexis Privette 6. Stephanie Williams 7. Allisha Shanks 5. Kyra Bunch 14. Kyndall Bunch 9. FG 19. FT 10-15. F 13. (3-pointers: Hutsell, Williams, Shanks)

Thursday’s game

Mtn. Grove 9 15 19 10 — 53

Houston 10 15 9 16 — 50

MTN. GROVE (53) — Feston 4. Kuster 11. Fox 1. Rodgers 4. Watson 8. Halford 14. Williams 11. FG 19. FT 16-31. F 16. (3-pointers: Kuster 3, Williams 2)

HOUSTON (50) — Alexa Ichord 10. Kaitlyn Kell 3. Tory Burgess 12. Kenzie Scheets 5. Haylee Kell 7. Emilee Reese 2. Erica Keeney 9. Elizabeth Hayes 2. FG 18. FT 11-18. F 22. (3-pointers: Burgess 3. Fouled out: Keeney, Hayes)

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