Houston freshman Abby Casper dives between Eminence players for a loose ball in the second half Monday.

Kylee Elmore’s teammates established a double-digit lead while she sat on the bench with two fouls. Then she returned in the second half and turned the season opener into a blowout.

Elmore scored 19 of her game-high 23 points in the second half as the Houston Lady Tigers cruised past Eminence 62-32 Monday night inside Hiett Gymnasium.

Senior Kaylea Preheim scored 10 points off the bench for HHS (1-0). Freshman Abby Casper had eight points, six assists and six steals.

The Lady Tigers debuted a new style of play with their young –– 11 of the 14 varsity players are underclassmen –– but talented team. Houston applied fullcourt pressure the entire game and sped up the tempo offensively.

The positives were 31 forced turnovers and 21 steals. The negatives were the Lady Tigers’ 25 turnovers and many missed point-blank shots as part of 32.9 percent shooting.

“I think it will be an exciting style of basketball,” HHS coach Brent Kell said. “It’s something we haven’t been able to do for a few years just because we haven’t had that kind of speed and quickness.”

The Lady Tigers led 6-4 in the first quarter when Elmore picked up her second foul. But when she went to the bench, the lead expanded. Preheim converted a steal into a layup and hit a 3-pointer as Houston scored 11 of the next 16 points.

“Kaylea gave us some real good minutes,” Kell said. “She scored some early baskets that I don’t know what we would have done without them. She gave us some points we desperately needed.”

In the second quarter –– with HHS playing all freshmen and sophomores at times –– the lead stretched to double figures when Makayla Koch grabbed her own miss and scored to make it 25-15. Freshman Jaydin Ramsey drilled a triple from the left corner and Casper nailed a baseline jumper to close out the quarter as the Lady Tigers led by 14.

“We’ve got talented kids,” Kell said. “They just have to learn how to play on the varsity level.”

Elmore returned in the second half and a comfortable lead became insurmountable. 

HHS scored 15 unanswered points –– highlighted by an Elmore 3-pointer and three baskets near the rim –– as the Lady Tigers went ahead 49-25.

Consecutive triples by Elmore made it a 29-point HHS lead early in the fourth quarter. 

The Lady Tigers’ advantage actually could have been larger with fewer turnovers and by converting shots around the basket.

“We got in too big of a hurry at times,” Kell said. “We talked after the game about playing fast, but also playing under control.”

Houston was able to control the boards despite playing without starting center Sarah Kelley, who missed the game for a minor heart procedure. Kelley, who was projected to miss 3-4 days, will instead be sidelined 10 days while she recovers. Kell said she can attend practices but will not play in next week’s Cabool Invitational. The fourth-seeded Lady Tigers face No. 5 Seymour at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

In Kelley’s absence, Ramsey grabbed 11 rebounds and Koch, a sophomore, grabbed eight rebounds in her first career varsity start.

The Lady Tigers had a 42-22 edge on the boards, including 20 offensive rebounds.

“When you have that many offensive rebounds, you’re doing something right,” Kell said.

Box score

Eminence   11    6   7    8   –    32 
Houston       17      13      19      13      –      62   

EMINENCE (32) – Hayli Smith 2. Savanna Conner 10. Makayla Cooley 3. Summer Counts 2. Madison Keeling 15. FG 10. FT 11-27. F 14. (3-pointers: Cooley. Fouled out: none).

HOUSTON (62) – Kylee Elmore 23. Abby Casper 8. Monica Hunter 2. Makayla Koch 6. Jaydin Ramsey 9. Kaylea Preheim 10. Alyssa Hayes 4. FG 25. FT 7-19. F 21. (3-pointers: Elmore 3, Ramsey, Preheim. Fouled out: none).

Lady Tigers vs. Seymour in Cabool Invitational, 5:30 p.m.*

*Will be broadcast online at www.houstonherald.com/live

PDF: Lady Bulldog Invitational

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