HHS senior forward Karlee Curtis puts up a shot during the second quarter of the Lady Tigers' loss to Liberty Tuesday in the Mountain Grove Holiday Tournament. Credit: DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

Playing four games in four days this week during the ninth annual Mountain Grove Girls Holiday Tournament, the Houston High School girls basketball team posted a win and two losses.

Seeded fifth in the event’s 16-team bracket, the Lady Tigers beat No. 12 Hartville 63-43 in a first round game on Monday (Dec. 26), but then fell to No. 4 Liberty, 58-33, in a quarterfinals contest on Tuesday and suffered a 67-63 defeat against ninth-seeded Norwood in a loser-out contest on Wednesday.

In the opener against Hartville, the Lady Tigers held a slim 22-19 lead at the end of the high-scoring first quarter, but then outscored the Lady Eagles 17-6 in the second period and maintained control from there.

Senior forward Olivia Crites went 7-for-8 from the free throw line and led Houston in scoring in the contest with 21 points, while junior point guard Angie Smith scored 10 points in the first half and finished with 15. Senior forward Karlee Curtis also scored in double-figures for the Lady Tigers with 13 points, while senior guard Aliyah Walker added 7.


Against Liberty, Houston trailed 12-10 after one quarter but trailed 26-15 at halftime. The Lady Eagles then poured in 24 points in the third period to hold a commanding 50-29 advantage going into the final 8 minutes.

The Lady Tigers struggled offensively in the contest, especially in the first half. While penetrating Liberty’s defense without much problem and connecting on plenty of interior passes, Houston time and again missed good shots from medium and short range. Meanwhile, the Lady Eagles went 16-for-22 from the charity stripe, while the Lady Tigers sank just 4-of-7 foul shots.

HHS senior Olivia Crites puts up a shot during the third quarter of the Lady Tigers’ loss to Liberty Tuesday in the Mountain Grove Holiday Tournament.

Crites and Smith each had 11 points to lead Houston in scoring in the game, while Walker nailed two 3-pointers and finished with 8 (all in the third quarter).

Sophomore guard Hadley Chowning led Liberty in scoring with a game-high 21 points (including three treys), while junior guard Reagan Wells went 9-for-9 from the free throw line and finished with 18 points and senior forward Lyla Cornman added 13 (including 8 during the Lady Eagles’ third-quarter outburst).

Crites fouled out with 1:40 left in the third quarter.


The Lady Tigers led most of the way against Norwood, and held an 11-point advantage early in the fourth quarter.

But on the strength of a hot shooting touch from behind the 3-point arc and an advantage on the boards, the scrappy and young Lady Pirates staged an unlikely comeback to pull out the victory.

Crites led Houston in scoring with 19 points, while Curtis had a season-high 18 (including 16 in the first half) and Smith added 13.

Norwood had four players score in double-figures, led by sophomore guard Autumn Gunter with 15 points and senior Kaytlin Drake with 14.

Third-seeded Mansfield beat No. 1 Licking 49-36 in the tournament championship game last Thursday, while No. 2 Chadwick topped Liberty 42-38 in the third-place contest and Norwood downed No. 6 Salem 53-46 in the fifth-place matchup.

Surrounded by defenders, HHS sophomore Sophia Crites maneuvers with the ball in the key during the Lady Tigers’ win over Hartville on Monday (Dec. 26). SUBMITTED PHOTO

The Lady Tigers’ third quarter woes against Liberty marked a continuation of a trend that has been present in several outings this season.

“We just have to get out of this funk,” said head coach Lindsey Vermillion. “We need to work on finishing a game, being patient with the ball and letting the ball work. Yeah, I hate to losing just like the next guy, but I’m not concerned. Yes, I am frustrated, but I knew this wall would come.

“Now we just overcome it and move on and play like we know how.” 

The Lady Tigers (6-3 through last week) play their first South Central Association conference game on Monday (Jan. 2) at Salem and hit the road again Tuesday for a nonconference contest at Newburg.

Houston senior Aliyah Walker spots up for a 3-point shot during the contest against Liberty.

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 ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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