With 11 players scoring at least a point, the Houston High School girls basketball team routed Norwood 62-31 last Friday night in Hiett Gymnasium.
The Lady Tigers jumped on the visiting Lady Pirates early and never looked back, leading 22-5 at the end of the first quarter.
Sophomore forward Olivia Crites and senior guard Jaden Stell led Houston in scoring with 11 points each. Crites scored all of her points in the first half, while Stell sank a trio of 3-point shots in the contest.
Freshman guard Angie Smith had 10 points for Houston, while sophomore forward Karlee Curtis had 8 (including 6 in the second quarter) and post players Riley Scheets (a senior) and Rhease Manier (a sophomore) added 6 apiece.
Junior guard Cassie Chadwell sank three treys and led Norwood in scoring with 14 points.
HHS head coach Brent Kell said the Lady Tigers did a good job of remaining focused in a physical contest in which not many fouls were called.
“We felt really good about the game,” Kell said. “We thought our girls paid attention to detail didn’t let the physicality of the game bother them. A lot of the girls were knocked to the floor, yet we never heard one single complaint. They just got up and went about their business, and that’s a sign of maturity.”
The Lady Tigers’ defense caused Norwood plenty of heartache early on.
“We came out playing at a very high level and set the tone early with our defense,” Kell said. “Along with some great passing and finishes around the basket, we were able to build a pretty good lead and were able to maintain the lead throughout the game.”
Kell said the team wanted to build off of the momentum from a win over a tough Koshkonong squad in the previous week. At this year’s version of the annual Mountain Grove Holiday (which starts Saturday), Koshkonong is seeded sixth in the 16-team field, while Houston is 13th.
“Going into the Christmas break, we feel very good about where we’re at,” Kell said. “Even though we’re the 13th seed in the Mountain Grove tournament, we’re going to use that as motivation. We’ve talked a lot about the lack of respect we got at the seed meeting, and we have to earn that back by playing good basketball. We want to have a good tournament and that will set the tone for us going into conference play after Christmas.”
The Lady Tigers (3-3) begin the tournament with a matchup at noon Saturday against fourth-seeded Willow Springs.
“We feel like even though we’re 13th seed that we can win this tournament,” Kell said, “as in my opinion there are no clear-cut favorites. We’re going to be prepared and give everything we’ve got.”
Kell said the team’s chemistry and players’ attitudes are both headed in the right direction at this stage of the season.
“I really believe the girls are starting to buy in to what we’re doing,” he said, “as they’re working to get better at everything we’re telling them. Each individual I’ve talked to about what we need from them has delivered and understands better what her role is.
“Again, that’s a sign of maturity and a team growing up.”
If the Lady Tigers win Saturday, they would play again at 4:30 p.m. Monday against the winner of a first-round game between No. 5 Mansfield and No. 12 Gainesville. A loss would put Houston playing at 10:30 a.m. Monday against the loser of the same game.
The tournament championship contest is set for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday (Dec. 30).
“We’d love to have a good following at the tournament,” Kell said.