A few bad breaks kept the Kansas Lady Comets from repeating as state champs on Saturday. They also showed just how many things have to go right in order to take home the gold ball.
The first bad break happened to sophomore post player Heather Marshall’s collarbone in midseason. Marshall was widely viewed as a key to the Lady Comets’ title hopes at the beginning of the season. Replacing the duo of Brooke Panther and Kourtni Kendrick, Marshall was expected to provide the interior presence needed to complement the guard duo of Courtney Cowan and Kelsey Barnwell.
No easy task, but that kind of pressure comes with the territory when you step into the starting lineup of a program that has won three state titles and made 10 appearances in the state tournament since 2000. Marshall seemed to be settling into the role nicely until her injury, which sidelined her for nearly two months until the Area Championship against Verdigris on March 4.
The lack of game conditioning – not to mention the lack of valuable playing time Marshall needed to develop – finally caught up with the Lady Comets in the state final against a Bethel squad that had the size and athleticism to take advantage.
“With Heather Marshall coming back and not really being in playing shape we were limited in the post,” Kansas head coach Steve Odle said Saturday.
Not that that was the only reason Kansas lost Saturday. A lot of credit should go to an excellent Bethel squad that lost only one game all season. McKenzie Cooper’s three at the end of the first half, breaking an 18-all tie, didn’t help Kansas’s cause. A few more shots falling in the first three quarters would’ve helped too, but sometimes you need a few breaks – the good kind – to win the state championship.
Kansas should be back in the same position next season, barring any unforeseen disasters. Barnwell and Cowan, who scored 104 points combined in the three games, will both be seniors, and Marshall, with another season under her belt, should develop into the post presence the Lady Comets will need.
The Jay Lady Bulldogs made a brief but memorable appearance in the state tournament, bowing out to eventual state champion Fort Gibson on Thursday. Jay led at halftime 23-20, but Fort Gibson, which finished as state runners-up three consecutive years from 2006-2008, made the plays at the end of the game to squeak out a 48-44 win.
The Lady Tigers probably had the most dramatic three days of any team in the tournament. On Friday against Vinita, Fort Gibson rallied from six points down in the fourth quarter, scoring the final eight points of the game after Vinita’s leading scorer, Caitlyn Spurgeon, fouled out with three minutes to play. Nana Wallace, who scored the go-ahead bucket against Jay with 34 seconds left on Thursday, scored another game winner with three seconds to go to down the Lady Hornets. Fort Gibson finished with a 52-51 overtime win over Cache in Saturday’s championship.
Jay has a good shot to get back to Oklahoma City also, but they’ll have more holes to fill than Kansas. Senior guard Lauren Wilson, who came back from a torn ACL to become Jay’s leading scorer down the stretch, played her final game against the Lady Tigers. So too did post player Carrie Kirby, do-everything guard Talisa Budder and valuable reserve Destini Hogshooter.
But coming back will be point guard Megan Ritter, along with fellow guard Laura Whiteley. Those two will be expected to lead a Jay squad that hopes to start the same tradition of yearly trips to The Big House that Kansas has.
On a somber but related note, David Reeder, who for the past decade has become a fixture on the Delaware County sports scene as a reporter for the Delaware County Journal and the Grove Sun, lost his father on Wednesday after a lengthy illness. Jimmy Reeder was a school administrator for 22 years who also coached and officiated and we here at the Grove Sun would like to extend our condolences to David and his family
The passing of his father caused David to miss his favorite event for the first time in a long while. It also so happened that the Jay and Kansas girls played their quarterfinal games on Thursday at exactly the same time – 8:30 p.m. This left me in something of a bind. Fortunately, Mike Kays at the Muskogee Phoenix was kind enough to help me out. Hence the article on the Jay game by the Phoenix’s Kenton Brooks. It wasn’t an ideal situation for me, and agonizing to have to choose one game over the other, but thanks to those guys for helping me out.
Another team with high hopes for next year is the Colcord Lady Hornets. The Lady Hornets took eventual state quarterfinalist Oklahoma Union to the wall in an Area Consolation game before being eliminated by five points.
The Lady Hornets will graduate just one senior off this year’s squad, which started three freshmen. The Lady Hornets finished the season with a modest 11-10 record, but defeated tough teams from Ketchum and Commerce along the way before bowing out to the Lady Cougars. Those three teams combined for a 66-8 record. With a year of valuable experience under their belts, the Lady Hornets will be one of three area teams with their eyes on the state tournament.
Let’s see, that’s three girls teams. Only one boys team in the area, the Fairland Owls, made it as far as Area. Looks like girls rule when it comes to Delaware County basketball.
Time to step your game up boys.