As they prepare for the final two games of what’s been a remarkable season, the Carl Junction girls basketball team is ready to make up for lost time.
Members of this year’s senior class were part of Carl Junction’s undefeated 2020 squad that advanced to the Final Four, but didn’t get to compete because the state tournament was canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus.
It’s safe to say it was a heartbreaking end to a stellar season. On top of that, Carl Junction’s last two seasons ended one win short of the semifinals.
If you ask Bulldogs coach Brad Shorter, he’ll tell you his team remains highly-motivated by those past disappointments.
“I think there is some extra motivation with our kids,” Coach Shorter said. “You can see it in their eyes. Our kids have wanted this opportunity and now they’ve created this opportunity for themselves.
“2020 was devastating for our basketball program,” Shorter added. “We didn’t get to finish it and we felt like we had a great shot at winning it that year. This year’s group is different, but our seniors were part of that group. Hopefully that extra motivation will help us. We know there are three other great basketball teams in the tournament, so we’ll have to be well-prepared.”
The Bulldogs get their shot at redemption this weekend.
Carl Junction (29-1) meets Cape Girardeau Notre Dame (23-5) at 6 on Friday night in a Class 5 semifinal of the 2023 MSHSAA Show-Me Showdown inside the Hammons Student Center on the campus of Missouri State University.
For Shorter and the Bulldogs, the goal is simple.
“I want to see us peak this weekend,” Shorter said. “I think we’re getting close. We seem to be getting better each day. Playing a lot of tremendous basketball teams always helps. We just have to bring our ‘A’ game. I told the girls all of the work is done. The hay’s in the barn. We just have to be ready to bring our best effort. We just hope we can play well and we hope we can finish the way we want to.”
A CLOSER LOOK: THE CARL JUNCTION BULLDOGS
After beating Lincoln College Prep in Saturday’s quarterfinals, Carl Junction enters the Show-Me Showdown on a 24-game winning streak.
Coach Shorter noted it’s been rewarding to still be going to practice every day at this time of the year.
“It’s been terrific,” Shorter said. “As much as I don’t want this season to end, and I don’t think our kids want this season to end, but the beauty of it is we know we have two games left. That makes it nice to be able to finish out a season knowing what you’ve got left.”
Carl Junction’s starting lineup features senior guards Destiny Buerge, Hali Shorter and Klohe Burk, junior forward Kylie Scott and sophomore guard/forward Dezi Williams.
The 4-States Basketball Coaches Association’s Player of the Year and Carl Junction’s all-time leading scorer, Buerge averages 25 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists per game.
The 6-foot-3 Scott is averaging 14 points, nine rebounds, three blocked shots and two assists per game.
Burk averages eight points and two steals per game, Hali Shorter averages four assists, three points, three rebounds and 1.5 steals per night, while Williams contributes seven points, seven boards and three assists per contest.
Carl Junction’s reserves are senior Allie Wrestler, junior Anna Burch, sophomore DeShaye Buerge and freshman Jadyn Howard.
Winners of eight straight district championships, Carl Junction is ranked first in Class 5 by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association.
Also of note, Central Ozark Conference champion Carl Junction owns wins over two teams that beat Notre Dame during the regular season—Nixa and Republic.
A CLOSER LOOK: THE NOTRE DAME BULLDOGS
Notre Dame defeated John Burroughs 43-35 in the quarterfinal round.
Notre Dame is tied for eighth in the MBCA poll. The Bulldogs won a district title for the fifth straight season.
Notre Dame has won 11 of its last 13 games.
“They’re really good,” Shorter said. “They remind me of a number of teams, including ourselves. They play a matchup zone. They have more length than we do. They’re fundamentally sound and they do a lot of nice things on the floor. We’re going to have to box them off and limit their possessions. The biggest thing for us is that we are secure with the basketball and that we get the looks we want.”
The Rubel sisters are key performers for Notre Dame. Freshman Brie Rubel scored 16 points in the quarterfinals, while senior Tori Rubel had 15 points and 12 rebounds and freshman Kate Rubel contributed 11 rebounds and four points.
Senior Anna Garner is another player to watch for Notre Dame, which also has the Bulldogs as its mascot.
Like Carl Junction, Notre Dame lost in the quarterfinals the past two seasons after qualifying for the semifinals in 2020.
THIS ‘N THAT
Sapulpa, the lone team that has defeated Carl Junction this season, won the Oklahoma 5A state championship last weekend. Of note, Carl Junction was not at full-strength in that meeting, which took place in the title game of the Fort Smith Tournament of Champions.
Carl Junction is heading to the Final Four for the fourth time in seven years under Shorter. The Bulldogs finished fourth in 2017, were the runner-up in ’18, and again, didn’t get the opportunity to compete after qualifying in ’20.
In Friday’s second Class 5 semifinal, defending champion West Plains (23-7) takes on Lutheran St. Charles (25-5) at approximately 8 p.m.
Saturday’s Class 5 Show-Me Showdown title game is scheduled for 8 p.m. inside Great Southern Bank Arena. The third place game is at noon on Saturday.
MSHSAA 2022-2023 Class 5 Girls Basketball State Tournament Matchup: Notre Dame (Cape Girardeau) vs. Carl Junction