Blair Oaks girls basketball falls to St. James

Chesney Luebbering of Blair Oaks puts up a shot along the baseline over Cheyenne McDowell of St. James during Thursday night's game at Blair Oaks High School in Wardsville. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)
Chesney Luebbering of Blair Oaks puts up a shot along the baseline over Cheyenne McDowell of St. James during Thursday night's game at Blair Oaks High School in Wardsville. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- The result may have been the same for the Blair Oaks Lady Falcons, but there was tangible improvement from one week to the next.

“The first time we played them, we had 38 turnovers. Tonight, we were under 20 turnovers,” Blair Oaks coach Ashley Agee said following the Lady Falcons’ 54-26 loss Thursday night to the St. James Lady Tigers at Blair Oaks High School.

“That’s a big difference. We were able to settle in and not turn over the ball in the half-court setting. Right there, that’s a win. I think the only thing we didn’t do tonight was score.”

Last week in the Fatima Comet Classic, St. James defeated Blair Oaks 67-41.

“Tonight, we were locked in,” Agee said. “St. James, they’re just a good ballclub.”

Blair Oaks opened the game with a match-up zone defense, which led to St. James taking several long-range shot attempts.

“We did well with it for a half,” Agee said.

The Lady Tigers were 5-of-20 from 3-point range in the first half, often taking shots well beyond the line.

“You have to take away the lane, you have to take away the high-percentage shot,” Agee said.

The Lady Falcons just couldn’t get much going on the offensive end, despite limiting turnovers. Blair Oaks shot 25 percent (10-of-40) from the floor.

“Offensively, we had some pretty good looks,” Agee said. “The lid was just on the basket tonight.”

St. James was ahead 14-6 after one quarter and 28-11 at halftime.

In the second half, rather than settling for 3-point shot, the Lady Tigers worked the ball around to set up good looks from long range. The adjustment worked, as St. James was 6-of-12 from deep after halftime.

“Whenever they were swinging the ball around from corner to corner, they were making us tired,” Agee said. “In high school basketball, after three or four shifts, kids don’t stay true. You start to stand up, you don’t box out and give them another chance.”

The Lady Tigers also swarmed to Blair Oaks center Autumn Bax every time she touched the ball in the lane in the second half, forcing the Lady Falcons to score with the other four players on the floor.

“That’s what’s going to happen, and we’ve got to learn to step up,” Agee said.

Chesney Luebbering and Baley Rackers made back-to-back 3s in the third quarter for Blair Oaks, but that only dented the St. James lead to 35-19.

The Lady Tigers ended the quarter on a 10-0 run, getting eight points in that stretch from Lydia Kemnitzer to push the lead to 45-19 entering the fourth.

All nine St. James points in the fourth quarter came from 3-point range.

Luebbering finished with eight points for the Lady Falcons, scoring five of their seven points in the fourth quarter. 

Bax also tallied eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

In a balanced scoring effort, Lydia Kemnitzer had a team-high 12 points for St. James (5-1), followed by Kendall Costoplos and Kenadee Smith with 11 points each. Payge Kemnitzer had nine points off the bench and Emily Recker chipped in eight points.

Costoplos also grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double.

It’s been a difficult schedule to start the season for Blair Oaks. The Lady Falcons’ opponents -- Helias, St. James, Fatima and Hermann -- have a combined 15-6 record, with three of those losses coming in head-to-head matchups last week in Westphalia.

“We’re playing some of the best basketball teams in Mid-Missouri,” Agee said. “We’re not just playing any ol’ team. I think that makes us better basketball players.”

Blair Oaks (0-5) wraps up its three-game homestand next Tuesday against Centralia (4-1). The JV game begins at 6 p.m., followed by the varsity contest around 7:30 p.m.

In Thursday’s JV game, St. James defeated Blair Oaks 48-7, dropping the Lady Falcons’ record to 1-2.