High School Sports

Lincoln Prep will play for first girls basketball state title in school history

Lincoln College Prep defeated Logan-Rogersville in the first round of the State Basketball Class 4 Girls Championship.Brionna Bugetts, 23, goes up for a shot.
Lincoln College Prep defeated Logan-Rogersville in the first round of the State Basketball Class 4 Girls Championship.Brionna Bugetts, 23, goes up for a shot. Special to The Star

Throughout the course of a four-month season, the Lincoln Prep girls basketball team has practiced a defense it never uses. Drilled and drilled an arrangement that doesn’t show up anywhere on film.

“You never know when you might need it,” coach Jeff Atkins explained. “Just in case.”

The just-in-case scenario arrived Friday.

Boy, they were ready.

Lincoln Prep stifled Logan-Rogersville for a 40-18 victory Friday in the Missouri Class 4 state semifinals.

In search of the first state championship in program history, the Tigers (22-4) will face Incarnate Word Academy (29-2) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at JHQ Arena in Springfield. Incarnate Word has won eight titles in the past 13 seasons.

“It was a process for us to get here,” Atkins said. “We’ve had the talent. Each year I say we’re gonna get here, and we don’t. This year was just our time.”

In the Final Four for just the second time in school history, Lincoln Prep typically utilizes a full-court press, speeding up the flow of the game. But after the injury of junior Amari Conn, the team’s second leading scorer and an impact defender, it reverted to a Plan B.

The zone.

Logan-Rogersville had no answer for it. That was taken to the literal sense in the fourth quarter. It did not score in the final quarter.

The Tigers poured in the first 11 points of the game Friday, a run aided more by its defensive stands. Logan-Rogersville did not find a bucket in the first 5 minutes, 20 seconds of the semifinal until Jordyn Gault finally hit a driving floater in the lane.

It helped that guard Chorus Davis caught fire. She buried a trio of three-pointers in the first half, her first three attempts. Davis and teammate Brionna Budgetts led all scorers with 16 points apiece.

“I wasn’t shooting very (well) before the season. I’ve been in the gym working a lot on my shot,” Davis said. “It was just time that it started to show in the game.”

Lincoln Prep has not allowed any of its five playoff opponents to reach 40 points. Logan-Rogersville (23-8) entered the afternoon shooting 41 percent from three-point range, but it settled for deep attempts and made only 1 of 13.

In 24 hours, Lincoln Prep will decide whether the zone will stick around for another day. Either way, the team has already reached the first stage of its goal.

“We are more mature. We had a chance to go last year. We underestimated the game,” junior Ajanee Bradley said. “But we ended up coming back and had a second chance. We came back more mature, and we’ve just gotten better.”

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