Players in the Houston High School girls basketball program gather after a win over Hartville in the third-place game at last week's Fordland Invitational. Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

Starting the season at last week’s ninth annual Fordland Invitational Tournament, the Houston High School girls basketball team won twice and lost once to secure third place in the event at Fordland.

Seeded second in the tournament’s 8-team field, Houston beat No. 7 Dora 65-52 in a first round game on Tuesday, but fell 47-43 to No. 3 Fordland in Thursday’s semifinals. The Lady Tigers then earned a plaque with a 56-42 victory over fourth-seeded Hartville in Friday’s third-place contest.

The opener and the semifinal were both highlighted by referees blowing whistles. Three Houston players fouled out in the contest against Dora, while two HHS players and three from Fordland fouled out on Thursday.

In the semifinal, the officiating pair called an incredible 60 fouls, including 29 against Houston and 31 against Fordland. In four 8-minute quarters, that’s an average of a foul every 32 seconds.

HHS senior guard Makenzi Arthur makes a move to the basket in the lane during the first quarter of the Lady Tigers’ loss to Fordland last Thursday night in the semifinals of the Fordland Invitational Tournament.

Individual and team statistics weren’t available, but the Lady Tigers hindered their own chances against Fordland by missing numerous free throws (including 7 straight with the game on the line in the fourth quarter) and many open shots inside 15 feet. Things were different Friday, as Houston made free throws and didn’t get called for nearly as many fouls.

Top-seeded Chadwick won the tournament championship. Employing perpetual – and effective – full-court defensive pressure, the Lady Cardinals crushed No. 8 School of the Ozarks 50-9 in the first round, bludgeoned Hartville 35-6 in the semifinals and routed Fordland 43-16 in the final.

Due to scheduling, the Lady Tigers’ games on Thursday and Friday didn’t start until after 9 p.m.

HHS senior forward Karlee Curtis looks to pass during the semifinal contest against Fordland.

“We still need to work out some kinks on the defensive end,” said HHS head coach Lindsey Vermillion, “but overall – with multiple late night games – I think we did well. The girls were pretty drained for our Friday night game after playing at 9:10 p.m. the night before, but I was very proud of the energy and intensity they brought.” 

Vermillion liked the way the Lady Tigers’ offense operated against Hartville’s 2-3 zone defense.

“We like to get out and run,” she said, “so we need to continue to learn how to maneuver when faced with a zone. I think the girls did very well against Hartville’s zone.”

HHS senior forward Olivia Crites and junior guard Angie Smith were named to the event’s All-Tournament Team.

HHS senior forward Olivia Crites maneuvers with the ball in the key during the second quarter of the Lady Tigers’ loss to Fordland last Thursday night.

“We continued to stick together as one through the tough times during the Fordland tourney,” Vermillion said. “That’s all I can ask for. We had each other’s backs and continued to fight when we were faced with adversity.”

Things got pretty chippy during the contest with Fordland, especially in the third quarter.

“I also want to point out my bench during the game,” Vermillion said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the bench and how loud they were. They are so vital, bringing energy and intensity, and they keep us together and fighting. Of course, we missed a few vital rebounds and free throws in the game, but we grew from that game.”

Next up for the Lady Tigers (2-1) are home games this Thursday (Dec. 8) against Koshkonong and next Thursday (Dec. 15) against Norwood.

“I think we could have a very successful season,” Vermillion said, “as long as we stick together and come together as one. We will continue to learn how to handle hard better. How we handle adversity will show what we will be like come February, and right now I think we will be just fine.” 

HHS senior guard Aliyah Walker sends a pass during the third quarter of the Lady Tigers’ loss last Thursday night at Fordland.

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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