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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Too much pressure

Thursday, March 25, 2010

LOCKDOWN MODE: Laken Martin keeps Canton's Tori Niemann from getting a good look at the basket March 18 in the Class 2 state semi-final round. Thayer knocked off the Lady Tigers 64-49. Photos/Mullins
Knowing your opponent's plan of attack before a game tips off is one handy bit of knowledge.

However, being able to put that knowledge to work is another matter altogether.

Even if you're the state runners-up from a year ago.

Just ask the Canton Lady Tigers.

Going into their matchup with the Thayer Lady Bobcats in the semi-finals of the Show-Me Showdown March 18 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, the Lady Tigers knew full well that the speedy Lady Cats wanted to push the tempo, turning the game into a track meet .

And that's just what Thayer did against the bigger, taller squad from Canton.

Keyed by a furious full-court scramble in the third period, the Lady Bobcats just out-quicked Canton to the tune of a 64-49 victory for Thayer.

With the Lady Tigers (25-6) leading 25-24 at intermission, Thayer came out guns blazing in the third period, and by forcing Canton into a 94-foot game, a game the Lady Tigers did not want, the Lady Bobcats began to pull away.

Thayer swiped the ball from the Lady Tigers seven times in the frame, using those steals to fuel a huge 13-2 run. Thayer's full-court defense netted 13 steals in the game, six coming from Whitney Mills.

When Canton finally had a chance to catch its breath after the third period ended, the Lady Tigers found they had been outscored 21-9 in the frame and were in a hole they could not climb out of.

"The third quarter really killed us," said Canton Head Coach Seth Minter. "Their press -- we didn't do a good job handling it. We practiced against it all week -- what we needed to do to be successful against their press -- but it's so tough to simulate their speed. They're fast and athletic and got a lot of steals."

Not only could Canton not hang onto the ball because of the sea of bodies rotating at the Lady Tigers, when Canton did get the ball into the front court in the third, its offense seemed to crawl to a halt because of the toll it took on the team just to advance the ball past half court.

Kaley Hebert made Canton pay for those turnovers by cashing them into short jumpers in the paint during Thayer's third-period spurt. Hebert scored eight of her 21 points in the third.

"Our press really hurt them in the third quarter," said Thayer Head Coach Cliff Hawkins. "We got some baskets off that and I think they (Canton) were kind of tired. Our defense has kept us in this all year long and that's what did it today. I don't know how many times we caught them from behind and tipped the ball out for steals. That was the difference."

Thayer held a 45-34 lead after three and the Lady Tigers just couldn't mount any kind of charge over the last eight minutes of play, as Thayer advanced to the championship game with a 15-point victory.

"We felt like we were the underdogs coming in, because they had been to the finals last year," said Hawkins. "We just wanted to be close in the fourth quarter. We just didn't score very many points in the first half, but in the second, we got that run going and that made us believe that we could win."

Canton started out in good shape, using its size advantage to race out to a 7-0 lead to start the contest.

Mills said enough is enough and racked up five straight points, including the first of her two triples on the game, to keep Thayer within striking distance. Mills led all scorers with a game-high 25 points.

Thayer caught up with Canton at 19-all on a Mills' 3-ball in the second, but Canton clawed back on top 23-21 with under a minute to play.

With 33 ticks left until the break, the Lady Cats got a huge pick-me-up in the form of a trey from sharp-shooting Lacey Hawkins, pushing Thayer in front for the first time in the game, 24-23.

"That (Lacey Hawkins' 3-pointer) was huge," said Hawkins. "That's what we wanted to do, get her in to shoot the 3. She passed up two she should have shot, but she hit that one and it was huge for us."

Canton answered with a baseline jumper by Jessie Logsdon (15 points) that sent the teams to the break with the Lady Tigers up by one, 25-24.

"I felt like they out-rebounded us pretty bad and got a lot of second shots in the first half," Hawkins said. "But we adjusted and they just didn't get a lot of shots in the second half."

There were four lead changes early in the third before Thayer's aggressive defense completely knocked Canton back on its heels, giving the Lady Bobcats a lead they would ride all the way into the Class 2 state finals.

Laken Martin finished with eight points for Thayer, while Samantha Oakes had five and Emily Eckman two.

Tori Niemann led Canton with 16 points. Aron Taylor logged 10 for the Lady Tigers.

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