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story.lead_photo.caption Tipton's Myra Claas tries to squeeze her way into the lane between Clark County's Brooklyn Howe (left) and Bre Chamley (right) during the first half of Saturday's Class 3 quarterfinal in Tipton. Photo by Greg Jackson / News Tribune.

TIPTON — It figured to be a matter of when, not if.

The Tipton Lady Cardinals were 0-of-10 on 3-pointers through 2 1/2 quarters in Saturday afternoon's Class 3 quarterfinal game against the Clark County Indians. The Lady Cardinals are too good a shooting team for that drought to carry on much longer.

It didn't. Courtney Edwards hit Tipton's first 3 of the game with 2:26 left in the third quarter, then another with 1:07 remaining to push the lead to double digits as the Lady Cardinals defeated the Indians 60-46.

"You just have to be confident, you have to keep your poise, you have to keep going because they are eventually going to fall," Tipton coach Jason Culpepper said.

With the win, Tipton (25-4) advances to the semifinals against Skyline (26-4) at 8 p.m. Friday at Hammons Student Center in Springfield.

Edwards, a freshman, had missed her first three from beyond the arc before drilling two straight.

"I feel confident in letting Courtney shoot, every single possession," Culpepper said. "If they are going to leave Courtney open, we will live and die by Courtney shooting 3s because she's a really good shooter.

"For an Elite Eight game, trying to get to the Final Four, if she can step up and hit a pair of big 3-pointers like that, that's huge."

Kiley Bailey added a third 3-pointer in the final minute of the third quarter as Tipton took a 46-31 lead into the fourth. The Lady Cardinals outscored the Indians 19-6 in the third quarter to get some separation in what was a tight battle in the first half.

Clark County used a 5-0 spurt in the first quarter to take an 11-6 lead on its way to a 14-12 advantage going to the second quarter. Tipton started the second quarter on a 10-2 run to take a 22-16 advantage before Clark County scored nine of the next 11 points to lead 25-24. Edwards hit a pair of free throws with :23.5 left to give Tipton a 27-25 lead at intermission.

With COVID-19 protocols, teams are able host games in the state tournament. Culpepper thinks the Lady Cardinals hosting Saturday played a role in the Tipton's start.

"100 percent, everybody expects us to win at home," he said. "Last Wednesday at South Callaway in the sectional (a 70-53 victory), I thought we came out loose and played without any stress at all.

"Today, we host a quarterfinal game for the right to go to the Final Four, especially early, we looked a little bit uncomfortable."

Tipton led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter. Clark County got as close as nine, that at 55-46 with 1:30 remaining.

Tipton senior Gracie Wierman hit a 3-pointer to cap the scoring for the Lady Cardinals, who hit five of their final eight shots from deep.

Brooklyn Howe had 17 points to lead three players in double figures for Clark County (16-8). Alexis Ellison added 13 points, while Darian Harper chipped in with 12.

Briar Cox totaled game-high totals of 18 points and 19 rebounds for Tipton.

"She's an absolute animal," Culpepper said.

Kenna Bixler added 14 points. Edwards finished with eight points and 10 rebounds as Tipton finished with a 50-31 edge on the boards.

"Inside, we thought we had an advantage," Culpepper said. "But we didn't do a good job of taking advantage of it in the first half when we were uncomfortable.

"We did a much better job in the second half."

Myra Claas, who leads Tipton in scoring this season, totaled eight points Saturday.

"They did a great job of scheming to deny her the shots she wanted," Culpepper said. "They did a great job of guarding her."

With the win, Tipton advances to the Final Four for the second straight season. The Lady Cardinals finished second in Class 2 in 2020. The Lady Cardinals believe that experience will be a positive later this week.

"The Final Four is a really neat experience," Culpepper said. "That was the coolest sporting experience I've ever had.

"Now we've been through all the stuff that goes along with it and that's got to be helpful."

Tipton dropped a 65-49 decision Dec. 22 to Skyline, who defeated Milan 70-64 in the quarterfinals Saturday.

"We feel like we are a better team now and we're looking forward for the opportunity to play Skyline again," Culpepper said.

Lift for Life Academy (13-11) and Steelville (23-6) will meet in Friday's first semifinal at 6 p.m.

Skyline was ranked No. 2 in the final regular-season poll by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association, with Tipton holding down the No. 3 spot. Steelville was ranked No. 7, while Lift for Life was not receiving votes.

The third-place game is scheduled for noon next Saturday, with the title game to start at 8 p.m. Those games will be played at JQH Arena.

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