FESTUS, Mo. – Saxony Lutheran was more prepared for the outside shooting threat of Arcadia Valley this time after watching Josie Landrum sink four 3-pointers during their previous encounter one year ago.
The Crusaders seemed to have every other viable option covered as well on Friday night while earning another berth in the girls basketball state playoffs.
Junior guard Emma Brune totaled 17 points with seven rebounds, and Saxony Lutheran gradually pulled away over the last 12 minutes for a 48-33 triumph in the Class 3, District 3 title game.
Head coach Sam Sides notched career victory No. 500, and the Crusaders (21-7) brought home their seventh consecutive district crown. The Lady Tigers have been on the losing end of the last six.
Arcadia Valley delivered perhaps its most complete performance of the season on Wednesday while dumping 85 points on rival West County in the semifinal round.
But the Lady Tigers (18-10) totaled 52 fewer against the Crusaders, whose defensive effort along the perimeter left minimal room to penetrate or space to unleash long jumpers.
Saxony forced 12 of the 18 total turnovers by AV prior to halftime, and resisted one sustained threat during the third quarter before seizing firm command.
Sophomore Gracee Smith connected on a rare open look from straight away, then aggressively slashed down the lane to finish strong while crashing to the surface.
An attempt to further chop a five-point deficit rattled out from the left corner, and Brune converted two free throws after taking the resulting rebound the length of the court in transition.
AV senior forward Jaesa Brockes powered in a putback to make it 38-30 with 6:35 remaining in the game, but Saxony found two crucial seams in the Lady Tigers’ defense to answer.
Macey Smith hit a nifty left-handed scoop while drawing contact, and Brune provided a crucial 3-point play while attacking the right side on the ensuing offensive possession.
Brune banked in a runner from a tight angle along the right baseline for a 46-32 lead, and the Crusaders were comfortably able to melt a bulk of the remaining time from there.
Macey Smith provided 11 points, and Cassidee Wunderlich offered a physical presence in the post with 12 rebounds overall and three blocked shots in the first half.
Both teams struggled early with shooting accuracy, and Saxony ended the first quarter with a modest 9-5 advantage despite generating several more scoring chances.
Landrum knocked down a quick shot from the paint off a deflected rebound for Arcadia Valley, but baskets from Wunderlich and Brune extended the difference to 15-8.
Wunderlich showed her athleticism with a smooth cut and diagonal drive for two points, and the Crusaders established a 24-13 halftime edge.
Brockes drew plenty of attention in the post after compiling a career-best 29 points on Wednesday, and capped her high school career with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Gracee Smith had a team-high 12 points for the Lady Tigers, whose lone lead was 3-2 after Katie Whited sold a ball fake on a driving layup. Landrum had six points and six rebounds in her last varsity game.
Brockes was tapped across the wrist while turning to shoot from the corner in desperation, but no foul was whistled as the first quarter expired.
Saxony Lutheran advanced to face District 4 champion St. James (13-15) in the Class 3 sectional round on Wednesday.