Just getting to the Class 4 state final was a great accomplishment for the senior-less Webb City High School girls basketball team.
But on Saturday, it was all about the Incarnate Word Red Knights.
The St. Louis private school won its third state championship in four seasons with a 63-22 throttling of Webb City at Mizzou Arena.
The Red Knights left no doubt who the state’s best team is, especially after handing three of the Class 5 semifinalists double-digit losses en route to a 31-0 season.
The running clock final score was nothing new for the Red Knights, who outscored opponents by an average of 36.1 points per game this season.
Webb City coach Brad Shorter, who has led Webb City to state four times in his five seasons, was quick with praise for the champions, calling IWA and sophomore Napheesa Collier the best team and player he’s ever coached against.
Collier lived up to her billing as the Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year, shooting 9 for 10 from the field and 6 of 6 from the free throw line for a 24-point, 14-rebound effort.
“I’ve been fortunate to coach against some really good players, or I guess unfortunate… but I think she’s the best I’ve seen. I really do,” Shorter said. “She got a lot of shots around the basket, but she creates a lot of those shots around the basket.”
Webb City scored nine points in the first quarter, but that would be the most in any quarter. The Cardinals finished 8 for 40 from the field (20 percent), and scored five points after halftime.
“We knew our odds and we weren’t going to go out without a fight,” Webb City junior Mikaela Burgess said. “But that’s easily the best team I’ve ever played against.”
Incarnate Word coach Dan Rolfes said the early 3-point shooting of Nia Roth, who scored 14 points, was key for his team, ranked No. 12 nationally in the USA TODAY Super 25.
“When Nia is hitting the 3, that’s the X-factor for us,” he said. “After that, who are you going to guard?”
Desirea Buerge scored eight points and had nine rebounds for the Cardinals, who lost in a Class 5 district final last year to rival Carthage.
Webb City and Incarnate Word moved down to Class 4 this year, and could be angled to meet in future championship games.
“We’re not going to just roll over and die,” Shorter said. “But I don’t think we played particularly well, partly because of them. But we just didn’t have a good showing.”
Webb City (25-6) will return its entire roster next season, and now knows how much improvement lies ahead if they hope to be champions.
“I’m very proud of my team and how far we came,” Webb City junior Megan Heman said. “If you look at us last year, and how we ended it this year, it’s amazing. The strides we’ve made since last year, and I’m very proud of everyone — if you don’t play, or you do play.
“I’m just very proud of everyone on the team.”