Walnut Grove senior Jaycie Dishman eyes the basket during first half action of the Tigers’ Class 1 District 5 playoff game against the Fair Play Hornets at Willard High School in Willard, Mo. on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. Dishman led all players with 22 points as Walnut Grove beat Fair Pay 50-33.
WILLARD – They played like a bundle of raw nerves but finished like veteran all-staters.
Walnut Grove overcame a sloppy start to win a fifth consecutive district title, downing Fair Play 50-35 Thursday night in Willard for the Class 1 District 5 girls basketball championship. Senior Jaycie Dishman led Walnut Grove with 22 points, including six of the Tigers’ first eight.
“I was very nervous because it’s been a long time since I’ve had enough confidence and I’ve had a good team around me to know that we actually have a chance,” Dishman said. “We came through.”
Walnut Grove (26-1) overcame shooting four airballs in the first quarter. The first frame ended 13-6 with Walnut Grove grabbing five offensive rebounds — not a bad standalone stat, but alarming considering the amount of shots missed.
The start was even surprising to an official, who leaned over to voice his concerns to reporters on press row before the second quarter began.
“You’ve got to type the word, ‘ugly,’ at least once,” he said.
“This is a brand new team, these are kids that have not been in this situation before,” Walnut Grove coach Rory Henry said of his team. “I knew their nerves were going.”
The reigning back-to-back state champion Tigers still dream of winning three in a row. Gone is last year’s all-state trio of Heather Harman, Lexi Harman and Madisyn Freeze. Their graduation left question marks about the team’s future.
“There were a lot of people everywhere that said, ‘You know, you guys aren’t last year. You don’t have Heather, you don’t have Lexi, you don’t have them,’ and we just wanted to show everybody that no matter what, we can be the same caliber team that we were last year,” Dishman said.
Dishman, a senior who transferred from Marionville, has some playoff experience, as does senior Audree Crain. Dishman came to Greene County to play for her father, now-Walnut Grove assistant coach Jeff Dishman.
“Jaycie is the one that’s got some experience, she went to a final four as a freshman. Audree Crain has played in three of them, so we’ve got a little bit of experience and we played in big games all year,” Henry said.
Crain and Dishman led an 11-0 scoring run in just less than four minutes of the fourth quarter to stretch the lead and secure a championship win. The run began with a Dishman 3-pointer from the right wing.
“(Dishman) is our leader. When we really need a basket, we know that’s where we’re looking to go,” Henry said. “She hit a big three in the fourth quarter that kind of put us over the top.”
Dishman credits Crain, who scored 11 points in the game, for the winning run.
“We had a mismatch with Audree inside, so we knew if we gave her the ball that they couldn’t guard her inside,” Dishman said.
Kylie Cantrell led Fair Play in scoring with 12 points.
Walnut Grove plays its sectional game Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar. Its Class 1 District 6 opponent has yet to be determined.