With an impressive 67-30 win over Blue Eye in the state quarterfinals Saturday at Drury University, the Skyline Lady Tigers are heading for the Class 2 Final Four for the sixth straight year.
Skyline, 29-2, will play Neelyville, 24-4, in the state semifinals Thursday, March 8 at 3:30 p.m. at the JQH Arena on the campus of Missouri State University.
“Neelyville is really good, and we will have our hands full,” said Skyline coach Kevin Cheek. “They have three girls who are outstanding shooters.”
If the Lady Tigers win, they will play for the state championship Friday at 2:40 p.m. against the winner of Northeast (Cairo), 24-6, and Mid-Buchanan, 28-2). If Skyline loses, the Lady Tigers will play for third place on Friday at 11 a.m.
Senior All-State player Kaylee DaMitz led the way against Blue Eye with 29 points, and fellow senior Chloe Cole added 22. The Lady Tigers were a little sluggish at the start, but two 3-pointers by Cole helped them post an early 8-3 lead.
“We got off to a slow start, but Chloe picked us up with a couple of 3s,” Cheek said. “This opened opportunities for others.”
This led to a 10-0 run by the Lady Tigers, including a fast-break layup by Autumn Garrett following a long baseball pass by DaMitz. This was followed by two layups and two free throws by DaMitz for a 14-3 lead with 1:31 remaining in the opening quarter.
Meanwhile, Skyline’s full-court pressure was highly effective. Twice in the first quarter Blue Eye’s guards got doubled up and had to call time out because they were unable to pass the ball or otherwise move the ball down the court.
“We depended on Autumn [Garrett] and Sarah Cunningham to guard their two best players, and they did a great job,” Cheek said.
Blue Eye fought its way back into the game and trailed 16-9 at the quarter. Then they hit a 3-pointer to make it 16-12 after a minute had gone by in the second period.
However, the rest of the half belonged to Skyline as the Lady Tigers outscored the Lady Bulldogs 17-3 the rest of the way. Cole again sparked the team with a 3-pointer following a pass from Keelie Holmes. Garrett then got a rebound and short jumper, and DaMitz sidestepped and out-finessed a couple of defenders for a shake ‘n bake layup.
After another layup by DaMitz, Blue Eye finally hit a free throw and then a layup to make it 25-15.
Skyline ended the half with an 8-0 run, though, for a 33-15 advantage at intermission. DaMitz hit a free throw, then Cole nailed her fourth 3-pointer of the contest on an inbounds pass from DaMitz.
Turnabout was fair play, and this time Cole fed DaMitz for a short jump shot, and DaMitz ended the half with a pair of free throws.
While Skyline is composed of a bunch of Energizer bunnies, that’s not true of all teams. The Blue Eye squad began to show some fatigue at the start of the second quarter. One sign of this was the fact that the Lady Bulldogs hit only one of six free-throw attempts in the second stanza.
Only three Lady Tigers scored in the first half — DaMitz with 17 points, Cole with 15 and Garrett with four. When DaMitz drives to the basket she can either shoot a layup or, if she gets slowed down, pass off to a teammate. But on this night, nobody was stopping her, “so she was able to finish,” according to Cheek. Indeed, Blue Eye had no answer for DaMitz.
The Lady Bulldogs showed further exhaustion in the third quarter. As a result, Skyline started the second half by scoring the first nine points and were up 42-15. Cole led the way with five points, including her fifth 3-pointer of the night.
Skyline led 58-28 at the end of the third quarter, then tallied the first seven points of the final quarter. Garrett, who finished with 10 points, grabbed a loose ball and raced coast to coast for a layup. Cole followed with a fast-break layup and DaMitz hit a free throw. Garrett finished the rally with a layup for a 65-28 lead.
Savannah Owen had a bad shooting night (although she only shot four or five times), making only two free throws. However, she continued her streak of double-digit rebound games, this time with 10 boards.
Many people probably don’t realize how well the small Skyline players rebound, particularly DaMitz and Garrett. Against Blue Eye, DaMitz had eight rebounds, four assists and four steals. Garrett grabbed four rebounds.
“They box out well, are quick and they can jump,” Cheek said.
Cunningham played her usual solid game as far as defense and rebounding are concerned. Kristen Miller, still recuperating from a major injury, looked more like her former self, getting a steal and layup while playing her usual stellar defense. Valen Logan also added two points for the Lady Tigers.
The Lady Tigers have done well the past few games at staying out of foul trouble, and that certainly was the case Saturday.
Cheek said that sometimes players in the Lady Tigers’ situation play like they “are trying not to lose.”
“This team is different,” he said. “This group of seniors just go out and play and have fun. I guess it’s confidence or readiness or both. They are focused and excited and attack the game with ease.”