Lady Owls back in Showdown finals

Thursday, January 24, 2008

GRAIN VALLEY -- In the land of the giants, Amy Durham stood tallest.

The senior point guard controlled the action during the second half for the Marshall girls' basketball team Wednesday as it beat a big, talented -- and young -- club from O'Hara of Kansas City in the semifinal round of the Sonic Showdown at Grain Valley, 52-33.

Durham scored all 17 of her points during the second half, going 12 of 12 from the free-throw line, as the Lady Owls broke open a four-point game at intermission.

"She controlled the tempo of the game," remarked Marshall assistant coach Joey Rainey, whose team has won five of its last six games while she filling in for veteran head coach Tom Hayob. "She pushed the ball when we had numbers and she slowed it down at the end."

The Lady Owls didn't score at all during the first four minutes of the game, but only allowed a free throw during that span. They closed the first quarter with an 11-0 run, six points coming from junior Jessica Harriman.

The 6-foot-1 post and 5-11 senior Courtney Henley were forced to battle a Celtic front line which checked in at 6-3, 6-2 and 5-11. They combined for 23 of Marshall's 31 rebounds.

"They played hard and blocked out right off the bat," Rainey said. "They showed some heart."

That was true for the rest of the team as well. When the Lady Owls again went cold offensively during the second period, senior Kylie Heying made a couple of key shots to keep them in front. During the third frame, senior Paige Fifer -- known primarily for her defensive tenacity -- connected twice to help Marshall push the margin up to 14 points heading into the final stanza.

However, this game belonged chiefly to Durham, who began the third quarter with a short jumper and ended it with a bomb -- converting four charity shots in between. Call it a family tradition, since her older brother -- Justin -- holds the career scoring record for the Marshall boys' program.

Sophomore Hailey Houser scored 10 of her team-high 15 points during the fourth quarter, but O'Hara (9-3) -- which was limited to 25.9-percent field-goal shooting -- was unable to keep pace.

"They played awesome," Rainey declared, looking forward to Friday's tilt against the host Lady Eagles as Marshall (8-5) tries to capture it's third straight Showdown championship. "They're starting to understand their responsibilities, they're playing well together, talking to each other -- a complete team effort."

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