Ozark may very well be one of the best Class 5 girls’ basketball teams in the state.
But the Lady Tigers are still with everyone else in looking up at Columbia Rock Bridge.
The Class 5 No. 2-ranked Lady Bruins never trailed and took control with a 10-0 run in the second quarter on the way to a 64-41 win over No. 9-ranked Ozark on Thursday in the Lady Tigers’ home gym.
The result was a little closer than Rock Bridge’s 57-31 win over the Lady Tigers in last year’s Class 5 state quarterfinals.
But not by much.
“The fact that they can do pretty much anything,” Ozark senior guard Haylee Beard said of what makes the Lady Bruins difficult to match up against. “They’ve got a lot of height; they play great together; you can tell they love each other.”
The defending Class 5 champions led 18-17 before scoring 13 of the next 15 points to stretch the lead to double digits.
The lead grew to 37-21 less than two minutes into the third quarter as Ozark managed just one field goal from the 4:41 mark of the second quarter to the 5:44 mark of the third — a stretch of nearly seven minutes.
The Lady Tigers made two baskets in a 10-minute, 40-second stretch that lasted until the two-minute mark of the third period.
“You’re not going to be able to score 41 and win against Rock Bridge. You just can’t hold them down,” Ozark coach Yancey Little said. “They’re tough to match up against, and not scoring on our end makes it that much tougher.”
Rock Bridge reached 41 points with 4:53 left in the third quarter. The Bruins put four players in double figures and shot 49 percent from the field.
Junior guard Chayla Cheadle led the way with 17 points, 12 coming in the first half on 4-of-4 shooting.
Sophie Cunningham added 13 points and five rebounds despite battling foul trouble much of the game, and Cierra Porter and Hannah Dressler each scored 11.
Dressler added nine rebounds as the Lady Bruins outrebounded Ozark 33-17.
With Ozark’s defensive plan aimed at taking away Rock Bridge’s ability to drive to the basket, the Lady Bruins knocked down five of their first nine 3-point attempts and finished 7 of 16 from beyond the arc.
“They attack the basket, then they kick it out and hit 3s,” Little said. “They’re very versatile.”
Hannah Cook was the only Lady Tiger to reach double figures, finishing with 13 points and four rebounds. She scored 11 in the second half.
Beard and Jackie Fugate each scored nine points and Brie Tauai scored five of her seven in the first quarter.
The Lady Tigers shot 37 percent from the floor, and had one basket the last five minutes of the game to go with their earlier cold spell.
“Rock Bridge is one of those teams, you have to match their intensity,” Little said. “We’re sitting there late in the game when they’re up 20, and they’re still getting after it. That’s the sign of a good team.”
The teams could meet up again this postseason.
“The good thing about this is, we get a good idea of what to expect,” Beard said.
“If we play them in the quarterfinals, we can try some different things to give ourselves a better chance to beat them.”