HMS guard Carli Cummins maneuvers with the ball in front of West Plains forward Ella Orr during the first quarter of the 8th-grade Lady Tigers' game in the Houston Junior High Girls Tournament on Tuesday of last week in Houston's new gym. Credit: DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

In hosting the first-ever Houston Junior High Girls Basketball Tournament last week, the Houston Middle School 8th-grade girls basketball team won once and lost twice.

The Lady Tigers opened the four-team, round-robin event with a 32-13 victory over Mountain Grove on Wednesday, Dec. 15, in Hiett Gymnasium. The squad then lost twice in games last week in Houston’s new gym, falling 51-21 to Willow Springs on Monday (Dec. 20) and being defeated 35-18 by West Plains in the season finale on Tuesday.

Powered by a 9-point offensive outburst by guard Kynlee Weaver, the Lady Tigers outscored Mountain Grove 12-0 in the first quarter of the first game.

Weaver went on to score 18 points in the contest, while 7th-grade forward Hally Scheets tossed in 6 points in the third period and finished with 8. Guard Carli Cummins scored 4 points for Houston, while forward Ashley Gilbert added 2. 

HMS head coach Juli Yardley addresses her players prior to the fourth quarter of the 8th-grade Lady Tigers’ tournament game against West Plains last week. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

In the second game, it was Willow Springs that got away in the first half, as the Lady Bears led 14-3 after one quarter and were ahead 25-5 at halftime.

Scheets led the Lady Tigers in scoring in the contest with 6 points (all in the third quarter), while guard Kayla Wagner had 5 and the high-scoring Weaver was held to only 4. Annabelle Westbrook also scored 4 points for Houston, while Katy Evans added 2.

West Plains had similar success in the final game, as the Lady Zizzers led 11-3 at the end of the first quarter and 21-5 at the break.

Seven Lady Tigers scored in the contest. Weaver led the way with 7 points, while Westbrook had 3, Cummins, Gilbert and Scheets each had 2, and Wagner and Lilly Kincaid added 1 apiece.

The Lady Zizzers swept their three games in the tournament to take home the championship plaque.

Houston’s Annabelle Westbrook dribbles near the 3-point arc during the 8th-grade Lady Tigers’ game against West Plains last week in Houston’s new gym.

The event also featured a three-team 7th-grade competition, with West Plains earning the championship.

“We struggled in the tournament, but did some good things,” said HMS head coach Juli Yardley. “That was not our best playing – we struggled on offense and defense. However, every single game we improved and that is what my job is. We overcame some obstacles and we didn’t come up with the win, but I’m very proud of the girls.”

With the results in the tournament, the Lady Tigers finished the season with a record of 6-9.

HMS had only one girls team this year, as Scheets was the sole 7th-grader to turn out for hoops and she played with the 8th-graders. The 8th-grade contingent included just nine players.

“With only 10 players, we had to adjust,” Yardley said. “We had to overcome being tired, and playing positions some of the girls had never played before. I’m proud of how they all performed each game. My job as a middle school coach is to get them to improve every single game. We may not have won as many games as we should have, or the ones I wanted, but that’s OK.

“We improved and overcome obstacles that most teams didn’t have to face, and I’m proud of all 10 of those girls.”

Yardley expects several of the squad’s players to have a positive impact at the high school level. 

“If these girls stick with it, all of them will,” she said. “They all bring a different aspect to the team. We have something good happening with Houston sports, but we have to bring our mental game every single day. That is one thing I have preached about all season – mental toughness.”

Yardley thinks Wagner and Weaver could have a major impact as soon as next year.

“Kayla is a great teammate and never has an excuse,” Yardley said. “She is coachable and I’m excited to see her future.

“Kynlee has the fire to become a great player. I’m excited to see what she will bring next year.”

To view a photo gallery from the HMS girls game against West Plains (with the option to purchase photos), click here.

HMS guard Kynlee Weaver dribbles near the 3-point arc while being shadowed by West Plains’ Jewelia Willard during the first quarter of the 8th-grade Lady Tigers’ game in the Houston Junior High Girls Tournament last week in Houston’s new gym. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at

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