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TOWN AND COUNTRY • The first game at the 44th annual Visitation Christmas Tournament turned out to be much closer than the seeds indicated .

Clinging to a one-point halftime advantage, No. 3 Parkway Central turned in a strong second half to come away with a 58-47 win over No. 14 St. Joseph's. 

Central (6-2, No. 5 LS) opened up a 28-27 lead, thanks to strong play from senior guard Olivia Stephens. She scored six of her 12 points in the third quarter to help the team strengthen its tenuous advantage.

Colts coach Brian Guilfoyle said he liked the fact that Stephens took pressure of his team in the paint by knocking down jumpers.

“They are a really good, young team and we were hurting ourselves in that first half by missing wide open looks,” Guilfoyle said. “You've got to hit free throws and you've got to hit open looks. I think a lot of teams are playing down on our posts, so we've got to hit outside shots.”

Junior post player Jayla Kelly led Central with 16 points.

Guilfoyle said it was great to get the start underway in the prestigious event.

“The kids have come to this tournament for a long time as spectators, so they're pretty excited to be a part of it,” Guilfoyle said. “The first half could have something to do with nerves.”

Senior guard Tiffany Sakamoto led St. Joseph's (1-8) with 14 points.

Parkway North 46, Parkway South 35 • After earning a 13-point win on Nov. 28, the Vikings had a tougher time in their  tournament opener.

A 10-point halftime lead proved to hold up as sixth-seeded Parkway North withstood a handful of runs from No. 11 Parkway South to advance.

North coach Brett Katz lauded both sides for a hard-fought game.

“It's always a battle against Parkway South (3-4), especially having seen them a couple weeks ago,” Katz said. “It was a battle to the end and I thought our kids made some plays.”

Senior guard Je'Nayia Davis led North (5-1, No. 7 LS) with 23 points while junior guard Mackenzie Rhodes added 14.

North will play another familiar face during the quarterfinal round at 7 p.m. Wednesday as the Vikings face Parkway Central.  Central handed the Vikings their only loss in a 61-50 decision on Nov. 30.

Edwardsville 82, Visitation 21 • Four players scored in double figures as the No. 2 seeded Tigers rolled to victory.

Edwardsville (13-1, No. 1 LS) gave up the game’s first three points and then ran out to a 23-5 lead by the end of the opening quarter.

Freshman Sydney Harris led Edwardsville with 21 points while junior Quierra Love added 16. Senior Jaylen Townsend had 12 points and junior Kylie Burg added 10.

Julia Bader and Natalie Nunez led the way for 15th-seeded Visitation (3-7) with five points each.

The Tigers will play Cor Jesu in a quarterfinal at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“They’re a long, athletic team,” Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said. “We’ll have our hands full.”

Incarnate Word 66, Ursuline 27 • Sophomore Ellie Vazzana led a trio of Red Knights in double figures with 19 points as Incarnate rolled.

Incarnate (8-1, No. 1 SS) led 17-7 after the first quarter and 40-18 by halftime.

“You’ve got to put four good games together here and I really though we started out slow,” Incarnate coach Dan Rolfes said. “We picked up the intensity on defense and that’s Incarnate basketball. That’s what we need.”

After Vazzana, Incarnate got 17 points from senior Kiki Britzmann and 12 from senior guard Marisa Warren.

Ursuline (1-3) was led in scoring by senior Molly Effer, who had 11.

Whitfield 53, Francis Howell 38 • Senior Tajah Foster-Walker led the way as the Warriors ran past Howell for a first round victory.

Foster-Walker erupted for 17 points in the win.

“Obviously, you know how everybody holds this tournament in such high regard, this goes back to my days coaching Nerinx, I love playing here,” Whitfield coach Mike Slater said. “You get a win on Day one, that's a really neat thing.”

Whitfield (4-4) led 18-13 after the first quarter and never trailed after that point.

Junior Jade Moore added 12 points in the win.

Senior guard Taylor Russell led Howell (5-4) with 28 points.

The win set up a quarterfinal matchup against Incarnate Word.

“I look at it like it's going to help us, win lose or draw,” Slater said. “There's no point in playing games if you can't be pushed and you can't learn something. Those guys are a tough, disciplined team and this just gives us that opportunity.”

Kirkwood 52, Webster Groves 49 • For the second straight game, the Pioneers managed to hold off their rivals in a first-round game.

No. 4 seed Kirkwood outscored Webster by five in the third quarter and even built a double-digit lead in the fourth before a late Statesmen charge narrowed the gap.

Kirkwood (7-0, No. 2 LS) only made two baskets in the fourth quarter but parlayed hit seven free throws down the stretch to hang on.

Kirkwood held off Webster in a 54-52 win on Dec. 14.

“His kids come out and, like I said before, they play so hard — two games in a row now,” Kirkwood coach Monica Tritz of Webster. “We just have to learn how to play in the fourth quarter. I don't know what our hang-up is in the fourth quarter. We have not played well.”

Junior guard/forward Natalie Bruns led the Pioneers with 20 points. Junior guard Rylee Mulvaney added 11 points in the win.

Webster (2-5) was led by senior guard/forward Lauren Hollandsworth, who scored 20 points.

Kirkwood will take on Hazelwood Central in a quarterfinal at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Hazelwood Central 66, Nerinx Hall 57 • Nariyah Simmons led the Hawks with 19 points while Jakayla Kirk added 15 as the No. 5 seed earned the victory.

Central (8-2, No. 8 LS) will play Kirkwood in the quarterfinal round Wednesday.

Lyndsey Heckel led Nerinx Hall (5-3) with 19 points.

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