Heading into the season, Grove Lady Ridgerunners head coach Richard Bassett knew his team's strength was concentrated inside with the trio of Kat Johnson, Taylor Dodson and Mason Jeffries.
"We should be strong in the post," Bassett said before the season began. "That's our strength."
That was demonstrated fully in the three games at Hilldale this past weekend, as the three combined to average 32 points and 15 rebounds a game in leading the Grove girls to the tournament title.
In the opening game on Thursday against Roland, it was Dodson and Jeffries leading the charge, scoring 11 and 14, respectively, while grabbing five rebounds apiece. Jeffries also acquired seven stitches to close a gash over her left eye suffered after crashing to the floor late in the game.
Johnson finished with a relatively quiet seven points and eight rebounds, but she made plenty of noise in the semifinals against Hilldale, battering the smaller Lady Hornets to the tune of 21 points and six rebounds. Along the way, Johnson finished 8-of-11 at the free throw line and led to two Hilldale players fouling out of the game attempting to slow her down.
The threesome not only take turns, but on Saturday they showed their versatility. Facing a tough post player in Summer Tehee, as well as the long and athletic Kaylee Gladney, the Lady Ridgerunners' inside players showed off their ball handling and offensive rebounding abilities.
Dodson and Jeffries repeatedly drove the ball at Roland defenders, neutralizing Tehee with foul trouble before teaming up to dominate Gladney on the boards.
Dodson and Jeffries scored 11 of Grove's 17 first quarter points and 16 of their 23 points in the first half. Johnson added seven in the second half as the Lady Ridgerunners held off Roland's fourth quarter charge to claim the title.
Of course, no matter how good they can be on the inside, no team can fully function without good guard play. For most of the three days, Grove got just that. Amanda Cook set the tone in the first quarter on Thursday, draining a pair of threes and scoring 11 points in the first eight minutes against Checotah. On Saturday Cook and Emily Iverson scored six points each, making three threes to keep the Roland defense from collapsing inside.
It's the kind of balance the Lady Ridgerunners will need this season.
For one weekend, at least, they got it.