Abbie Miller earns MVP honors for the Lakers

Camdenton senior Abbie Miller was not at the team’s shoot around session before the game against St. James Saturday night in the Laker Shootout, but it was for a good reason. 

Miller spent the first part of her day interviewing for the Founder’s Scholarship at Evangel University, but it turns out that the senior hardly needed to warm up as she led the Lakers with 27 points and earned the title of MVP in an 89-64 win over the Tigers. 

“It was really exciting and a lot of fun,” Miller said of her big day. “I love my teammates and I’m thankful they have the confidence in me to shoot, for giving me the ball and just reading the defense and floor so well. It has been awesome and it was definitely all of them.” 

“To get to do it on our home court with all of our friends and family here, we are really blessed with an awesome community.” 

Miller’s teammates ended up having a pretty good day as well as the Lakers nearly had five different players reach double figures on the score sheet while also increasing the defensive intensity by forcing a total of 33 Tiger turnovers.

“I feel like the girls are playing well right now. They are seeing each other and playing to see who they can make look good,” Camdenton coach Staci Caffey said of her team’s selfless attitude on the court. “The girls just went hard. Defensively, they were being aggressive with it and I feel like that aggressiveness just led into our offense too.” 

St. James struck first with an early 6-0 run, but that advantage did not last long as Camdenton answered back with 10 unanswered points of their own and never trailed the rest of the way. Camdenton shifted between a 2-2-1 and 2-1-2 full court press that gave St. James fits all night.

“We are a quick team and we try to use that to the best of our advantage and just go all out. We try to go every play with that defensive intensity and score as many points as we can off of our defense,” Miller pointed out. 

But while the Lakers are looking to create some chaos, they are also communicating to make sure everyone is in the right spot at the right time. 

“The past couple of games our defense has been rough so we really just want to lock in on the different defenses we do. We just have to communicate with each other and coach said at halftime that we need to start communicating,” said Camdenton senior Coley Rezabek who finished the night with 20 points. “In the second half, we came out and I felt like we could trust each other with the read.” 

Good thing, too, because St. James stuck around for a while. Despite 20 first half turnovers, the Tigers only trailed by five points after the first quarter and 10 points at halftime. But the Laker offense soon exploded, outscoring St. James 26-12 in the third quarter to bust the game wide open. Caffey said the turning point was doing a better job of securing rebounds and increasing the energy.

“We definitely focused on not letting them (St. James) getting second shots,” the coach said. “I think that was a big determination as far as getting that ball turned around. They just picked up the energy and this was their sixth game in eight days, so the way we play it is kind of hard to keep that up. I think they got that little spark in the second half.” 

Camdenton senior Kylie Meier also reached double figures with 11 points along with junior Natalie Basham who finished with 10 and sophomore Shelby Kurtz put up eight points respectively to help fuel an offense that saw eight different players find the bottom of the net. Caffey said Miller’s MVP was well-deserved and as a coach, she loves the fact that she does not have to say a word when it comes to finding the shooter with the hot hand. 

“They are giving up the assist, they are seeing the open man, they see who is hot and they are feeding them the ball,” Caffey pointed out.

“She (Miller) just came out and played carefree… She stepped up and shot well tonight and I think she had a little bit of stress going and got that weight off her shoulders.”

The coach also pointed out how much fun it is to see a player live up to their potential. 

“She (Miller) saw what she is capable of and I have always seen it. I tell the girls all the time, ‘You’ll reach your potential one day,’ and today I felt like Abbie met that so that was pretty awesome to watch… I think it has been a great day for her.” 

Saturday’s win makes it seven in a row for the Lakers who have not lost since the final game of the Pink and White Tournament in Springfield on December 28. Part of that reason can be attributed to getting healthy as Camdenton has certainly been happy to have Basham back in the lineup. 

“We finally have a full team back and have Natalie back from three months of injuries. It is just so fun playing together and we just pass the balls so well, are so unselfish and want to make big plays for each other,” Rezabek said after the win.

Basham certainly could not sit idle for long and had been anticipating returning to the court. 

“I don’t like being on the bench. I don’t like cheerleading and my dad said he did not raise a cheerleader,” Basham said with a smile. “So being out there with my teammates is amazing. I missed it a lot so I am glad to be out there.” 

And a win like this where Camdenton was firing on all cylinders on both sides of the floor can certainly add to the camaraderie. 

“I think the girls are excited about playing. There is just an energy on the court that is kind of hard to explain unless you come and watch them play,” Caffey stated. “They get out, their eyes are up and they are pumping fists no matter who gets it… It is more about the energy on the court because St. James is a great program. They are good and get after it and our girls just kept pushing forward and did not fold.” 

Caffey will be looking for that same energy against in an Ozark Conference battle Monday night as Camdenton (13-4, 3-0 Ozark Conference) will visit state-ranked Class 5. No 4 Kickapoo (16-3, 3-0 Ozark Conference) in a fight for first place at 7 p.m.

“That is going to be tough. Kickapoo is big and have had our number the last couple of years,” Caffey said. “Anytime you can go in and compete against Kickapoo is a great night. I think that we know what our role has to be and what we have to do. I just hope the girls continue to keep playing the way they are playing and not change it because of who we are playing.” 

Rezabek, for one, is certainly on board for that notion. 

“I think we are on a really good roll right now. We have a lot of momentum and we just have to keep the momentum from these past few games and put it in on Monday and beat Kickapoo, who we have not beaten in a long time,” the senior said.