By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Who needs height when you have speed, quickness and toughness.
The Blue Eye Lady Bulldogs have used that formula to win three straight district championships.
The latest came Saturday afternoon at College of the Ozarks as Blue Eye rolled Spokane 62-34 in the Class 2 District 11 Tournament title game.
The Lady Bulldogs used their full-court press and half-court traps to control the game from start to finish.
“We don’t have to be the tallest,” said Blue Eye senior guard Kohnnar Patton. “Ball pressure is our big thing. If (other teams) have a post player, we’re going to apply ball pressure so they can’t throw it in.”
Blue Eye doesn’t have a player taller than 5’9” on its roster.
“We haven’t had size for a long time,” said Blue Eye coach Ken Elfrink. “But we’ve had toughness.”
Blue Eye (25-4 overall) plays College Heights Christian (26-2 overall) at 6 p.m. March 4 at Carthage High School in the Class 2 sectional round.
“It’s a special season and we want to keep it going,” Elfrink said.
The Lady Bulldogs are in the state playoffs for the third straight year despite graduating four senior starters from last year’s team.
“This year felt even sweeter because I didn’t want it to end,” Patton said.
Blue Eye held Spokane to just two points in the decisive second quarter. A five-point lead after one quarter swelled to 14 by halftime.
Patton, a two-time all-state selection and Evangel commit, scored a game-high 25. Her 3-pointer in the final minute gave Blue Eye a 25-11 halftime lead.
“She’s stepped up all year,” Elfrink said. “She’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
Only Class 5 Republic, which beat Spokane 51-33 in December’s Pink and White Tournament, held the Lady Owls to a lower point total this season. Blue Eye won 73-60 at Spokane on Feb. 6.
In all, Blue Eye held Spokane to just two points over a 12-minute span in Saturday’s matchup.
Elfrink credited under-the-radar players like senior Maddie Box and sophomore Makayla Johnson for Blue Eye’s defensive dominance.
“It won’t show up in the stat sheet, but Maddie Box played a heck of a game tonight,” Elfrink said. “She hit the boards hard and she’s my smallest kid at 5’5”.”
Riley Arnold’s 3-pointer midway through the third quarter put Blue Eye ahead by 20. The Lady Bulldogs extended the lead into turbo clock territory in the fourth.
Senior Paige Tate scored a team-high 19 for Spokane, which finishes 16-10 overall. It’s the fifth straight season that the Lady Owls have lost in a district title game.
Blue Eye 62, Spokane 34
Spokane 9 2 12 9 — 34
Blue Eye 14 11 23 14 — 62
Spokane (16-10 overall) – Tate 19, Wallace 7, Bell 4, Bonzer 2, McClure 2
Blue Eye (25-4 overall) – Patton 25, Warren 13, A. Arnold 8, R. Arnold 5, Johnson 4, Fairchild 3, Brown 2, Box 2