Jefferson City girls to face West Plains in Class 5 quarterfinals

Lyssa Sportsman of Jefferson City drives toward the basket during a game this season against St. Joseph Benton in the Jefferson Bank Holiday Hoops Classic at Capital City High School. (Greg Jackson/News Tribune)
Lyssa Sportsman of Jefferson City drives toward the basket during a game this season against St. Joseph Benton in the Jefferson Bank Holiday Hoops Classic at Capital City High School. (Greg Jackson/News Tribune)

The Jefferson City Lady Jays are one win away from their second Final Four appearance in the past five years, but standing in their way is the defending Class 5 champion West Plains Lady Zizzers.

In a battle of two Top 10 teams, the seventh-ranked Lady Jays know they will be tested in their quarterfinal matchup at 5:45 p.m. today at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar against the fourth-ranked Lady Zizzers.

“We are worried about them, they are a worthy opponent,” Jefferson City coach Kay Foster said. “But it is no different than what we have played all year.”

And Foster is right, as Jefferson City designed a difficult schedule to help prepare the team for moments like this.

With the Central Missouri Activities Conference having four state-ranked teams this year, coupled with the Lady Jays playing non-conference games against the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas, Tipton, Nixa, Republic, Union and Kickapoo, they feel ready to take on anybody.

“There’s nothing better to prepare us,” Foster said. “You can’t get a better preparation than what our CMAC schedule did. … They are going to be tough, but there are very few games on our schedule that haven’t been tough.”

West Plains (22-7) comes into today on an 11-game winning streak and winners of the Class 5 District 6 Tournament.

The Lady Zizzers entered districts as the No. 1 seed and defeated No. 8 seed Hillcrest 68-28 in the first round, beat fifth-seeded Branson 64-44 in the semifinals and knocked off No. 2 seed and fifth-ranked Rolla 53-40 after falling behind by 18 points in the contest.

West Plains trailed 29-11 early in the second quarter against Rolla before cutting the deficit to 29-17 by halftime. The Lady Zizzers won the second half 36-11 to grab the district title.

A key player for West Plains will be junior forward Alyssa Joyner, who is coming off a Class 5 all-state selection a season ago.

“They have several really good players that we are going to have to be keyed in on,” Foster said.

No. 7 Jefferson City (21-7) has won seven straight games headed into today and nine of the past 10 games.

The Lady Jays grabbed the District 5 title as the No. 2 seed with wins against seventh-seeded Capital City (55-22), No. 3 seed Union (50-38) and top-seeded and third-ranked Helias (43-41).

Jefferson City is expecting the Lady Zizzers to use a full-court press for a majority of today’s contest.

“They are going to press us,” Foster said. “Something that is going to determine that game is of course how well we take care of the ball.”

The Lady Jays bring state tournament experience to the table with Hannah Linthacum, Emmarie Graham and Bri Avey all having played in the quarterfinal round two years ago.

Their experience will go a long ways in helping the rest of the team get prepared for today’s game.

“We three kids that have been in this game before as sophomores and a freshman,” Foster said. “They know what is required and we fully expect them to take their leadership on leading our other kids through that process of preparation.”

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