Girls basketball

Wright City Wildcats girl's basketball team falls in district game

By Jeremy Jacob, Staff Writer
Posted 3/2/24

The Wright City Wildcats lost to Mexico in a girls high school basketball MSHSAA district tournament game in Fulton MO.

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Girls basketball

Wright City Wildcats girl's basketball team falls in district game


The Wright City girls have been looking all season for a game with four strong quarters.

The Lady Wildcats had that type of game on Monday in the first round of the Class 4 District 8 Tournament in Fulton against Mexico. After shooting out to a 16-3 lead in the first quarter and tying the game at 60 in the final minute, Wright City fell just short 64-61 to end its season at 7-20.

Head coach Doug Smith said it was a great time to see his girls playing hard for such a long period of time when it was win or go home. The root of Wright City’s struggles has been its ability to bounce back from adversity, Smith said, and the young Lady Wildcats demonstrated that even after falling behind 41-31 in the third quarter.

“They never quit,” Smith said. “When a few bad things happen or some bad stuff occurs, we tend to shut down and fade a little bit, not just keep our intensity and keep playing.”

The adversity began before halftime following a 19-10 advantage carried into the period by Wright City. Mexico (11-15) closed the first half on an 18-5 run to take a 31-26 halftime lead before surging out to a 10-point lead in the third quarter. Up to that point, Shiriah McRoberts and Paige Rees knocked down 3-pointers for the Lady Wildcats, but in the third quarter, it was Danika Graham’s turn.

Graham launched three 3-pointers and Zoe Mitchell also added four blocks off the bench to shore up the interior defense. Wright City was only down 48-45 after three quarters and kept the contest back-and-forth the rest of the way.

“It helped that we picked up a third foul on (Claire Hudson) and she went and sat for the last three minutes,” Smith said. “We were able to make a run with her on the bench.”

Hudson finished with 14 points for Mexico but did most of her damage in the second half in the form of nine points. The Lady Bulldogs had to look elsewhere for scoring after Wright City refused to allow Hudson to drive easily in the lane.

“Our entire goal was to do our best to contain (point guard Jo Thurman) and then to not let (Hudson) beat us,” Smith said. “We put a triangle and 2 on them almost the whole game, we guarded (Thurman) and really focused on (Hudson). When (Hudson) drove, we brought help to her.”

Smith said it isn’t strange to see one of Rees, McRoberts and Graham hit four of five from deep in a game, but Wright City hasn’t been able to put everything together until districts. Graham finished with nine points on her three from 3-point territory, Rees led the floor with 21 points and hit five 3-pointers, and McRoberts followed with 19 points and four 3-pointers.

The Lady Wildcats finished with 10 3-pointers as part of the total 18 makes from beyond the arc in the game. They seemed to happen at pivotal times as well, including Graham’s in the third quarter, McRoberts’ three in the big first quarter, and Rees nailed one to tie the game at 60 points with seconds left in the game. Mexico just picked up some offensive rebounds and turnovers to take the edge.

“We’ve had a lot of games this year where one of them has gone off,” Smith said. “But we’ve never had one with all three of them at the same time. Tonight, they got it going, and it was fun to watch.”

Smith said he hopes Wright City can bring that level of intensity to four quarters all next season and much sooner than districts as the Lady Wildcats hadn’t played a high-scoring game that tight all season. The sophomore McRoberts, however, is a certainty that should improve and is quite the force already, Smith said, as evidenced from her performance against Mexico.

“Shiriah is a smart player that makes us go with her ball handling, ability to get to the basket and shooting was massive for us tonight,” Smith said as he called McRoberts over to reassure her. “Every time we had to take her out to get a rest, they made a run on us. For a sophomore, she’s going to be a nice player.”

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