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Union stuns St. James in girls circles conference | Sports

The tremor felt around the Four Rivers Conference Tuesday night was not the 4.2 California earthquake.

Instead, it was the Union Basketball Lady’ Cats’ 60-40 win at St. James.

“This was the first time we played 32 minutes of basketball,” Union head coach Brian Karvinen said. “We’ve had matches where we’ve played 24 or 20, but this was the first time we’ve played the full 32 minutes. Sometimes, I forget they are sophomores and juniors with no seniors. What was more encouraging than the win was how we supported our efforts. The efficiency and movement of the ball was perfect throughout the 32 minutes.

St. James head coach Terry Wells said Union are ready to play.

“Union was just better than us in every part of the game,” Wells said. “I have to do a better job of preparing my kids for games like this. They were stronger with the ball, quicker to throw balls, better prepared and more aggressive. They did a fantastic job, so credit to those guys and Brian.

For Union (12-4, 3-0), it was their first win over St. James (13-4, 1-1) since 2018 and their first Phelps County win in the 21st century.

And the Lady Tigers were coming off a 59-56 win over a Lutheran St. Charles team that beat Union on Dec. 19, 51-40.

The best team in the Union, the 2021-22 Class 5 third-place team, also lost to St. James (58-42), one of only two losses that season. The other was to declare runner-up West Plains.

Both teams entered this game in the state spotlight. St. James ranked second in the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class 4 state poll, while Union received Class 5 votes.

“If you look, they hadn’t lost a home game all season,” Karvinen said.

In fact, St. James hadn’t lost a home game since February 14, 2022, when it was Owensville’s turn.

In Tuesday’s game, Union pulled out to an 18-10 lead after one quarter and didn’t give up.

“I’m so proud of our girls,” Karvinen said. “They came out ready to fight tonight. We started 13-2, so we were ready to play basketball. We weren’t fast and played well in a difficult place to play.”

Union led by 10 at halftime, 31-21, and through the three quarters, 49-29.

“We held the lead all night,” Karvinen said. “Coach Wells is a guy I respect a lot. If you win year after year, he has a lot to do with who’s running the show. He does a great job. We were waiting for the counter punch. We just avoided it.

The Lady ‘Cats were able to hold off any comeback attempts by St. James.

Sophomore Sophia Helling helped seal the game in the fourth quarter, scoring seven of her 23 points that quarter.

Helling knocked down four three-point field goals and went 5-9 from the free throw line.

Sophomore Fallyn Blankenship connected on four three-point shots and finished with 12 points.

Junior Mya Minor scored nine points, all in the first half. He had a three-point field goal.

Isabelle Gilbert scored six points, four in the fourth quarter. She hit a three-pointer.

Sophomore Lucy Koenigsfeld finished with five points.

Junior Kelsey Brake scored three points, all in the first quarter.

Junior Ava Eagan added two points.

As a team, the Union hit 10 three-point field goals and went 8-15 from the free throw line.

“I really think the seven days off helped us prepare,” Karvinen said. “No excuses about the Jefferson City game, but it was our 6th game in 13 days. I didn’t realize it until tonight. Tonight it looked like we had fresh legs and got ready.

Sophomore Kenadee Smith scored 12 points to lead St. James.

Junior Emily Recker also reached double figures with 10 points.

Senior Rylee Hancock was next with eight points.

Sophomore Ally Hartley and senior Olivia Herron each scored three points.

Senior Tessa Crocker and junior Kendall Costoplos each scored two points.

Costoplos had to sit out the game with a leg injury in the fourth quarter.

The Union takes on Blue Valley northwest of Overland Park, Kansas, Saturday at the Camdenton Shootout. Union plays at 1.20pm

“They’ll be good,” Karvinen said.

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