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Elementary tourney time
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Jeffery Simmons photo Kiaann King was constantly smothered on defense by Hickory Creek, but still found a way to score a career-high 18 points to lift West to a 20-17 victory Monday.

Bracket busters arrived on the first night of the 5-6 grade elementary girls tournament.

Coming in as the two lowest seeds, both the Irving College Lady Tigers and West Elementary Lady Wizards slipped on the Cinderella slippers Monday.

The Lady Tigers rode a big night from star forward Brooklyn Wanamaker to a 24-13 victory over the Bobby Ray Lady Stars to open tournament play at Warren County Middle School. Later, Kiaann King carried the Lady Wizards to their first victory this season, 20-17 over the Hickory Creek Lady Hawks.

Irving College and Bobby Ray split their regular season series, setting up a rubber match in the tournament’s first game with the highest stakes possible - only one team would continue its season past Monday.

The Lady Stars got off to a hot start, outscoring the Lady Tigers 7-1 in the first quarter. Sadie Duggin, Brily Jones and Zoie Verge each scored from the paint, giving Bobby Ray an early advantage.

Wanamaker decided to take over once the second quarter started.

The Irving College star showed why she was one of the league’s top offensive players. She was a one-girl offense in transition.

Wanamaker got open runs to the rim by grabbing rebounds and taking off in front of the chasing Lady Star defense. Arriving at the rim, Wanamaker showed her ability to finish with either hand. Wanamaker parlayed her quick-strike offense into 12 points in the second quarter, rallying Irving College from an early eight-point deficit to a 14-9 halftime lead.

Both offenses struggled coming out of the break, with Lady Star Alexis Verdal scoring the only basket from the field in the third quarter. The prolonged drought extended into the fourth quarter, with the score remaining 15-11 for nearly six minutes of playing time in the second half.

Shelby Fults finally broke the seal with a pair of free throws with 1:45 left, lifting the Lady Tigers to a six-point lead. Fults followed with a pair of layups as Irving College ran away with the victory.

Wanamaker finished with a game-high 14 points, outscoring Bobby Ray on her own. Fults followed with 7 points, while Lilly Cathcart added 3 – two coming in the fourth quarter on late free throws.

Verdal led Bobby Ray with 6 points. Duggin finished with 3 while Jones and Verge didn’t score after the first quarter.
Irving College now moves on to face No. 1 seed WCMS Thursday at 4 p.m.

While Irving College coming from the No. 5 seed to win was an early bracket shakeup, the Lady Wizard victory was the biggest upset of the night. West came into the game without a win, going 0-8 in the regular season after also losing in the preseason tournament.

King made sure West wouldn’t go home for good without a victory.

In what became a 1-on-1 battle, the Lady Wizard forward’s shooting touch was just enough to top Hickory Creek and its top scorer Brianna Taylor.

King scored her team’s final 18 points after Elly Bain opened the scoring with a layup. Taylor, who faced double and triple teams each time she touched the ball, was just as impressive for the Lady Hawks, scoring all of her team’s 17 points.

King did her damage from the outside, including hitting two back-breaking 3-pointers for West. Her first beat the buzzer at halftime, sinking in as the clock hit :00 to give the Lady Wizards a 11-7 halftime lead.

Her second was even more important.

Knotted at 15-15 in the fourth quarter, King vaulted West into the lead for good with a 3-pointer. She helped seal the victory with a pair of late free throws after Taylor had closed the gap with a layup.

Hickory Creek had chances to rally, but wasn’t able to hit from the charity stripe late to come back.

Monday’s victory vaults West into a matchup with Centertown Thursday at 6:30 p.m. All tournament games will be played at WCMS. The finals of the girls tournament is set for 6 p.m. Saturday.