COLUMBIA — The final buzzer sounded and Hickman girls basketball player Aqua Corpening took her place at the front of the handshake line.
Smacking palms as she went by the Helias players and coaches, Corpening then turned toward the doors on the west end of the court and headed for the locker room, her role in the Kewpies' recently-finished victory undeniable.
Aqua Corpening's game-high 26 points led the Hickman girls basketball team to a come-from-behind 47-34 victory over Helias on Thursday at Hickman. Jade Holley had 11 points for the Kewpies, who trailed 15-2 early in the game and 21-17 at halftime.
Corpening, a senior, showed her leadership skills through scoring a game-high 26 points in Hickman's 47-34 victory over the Crusaders on Thursday night.
When Hickman (2-0) stumbled to a 10-point deficit in the first quarter, Corpening pressed on, weaving to the basket and firing 3-pointers.
"I like having to step up for my team and having my team playing off of me when things get in a crunch, like they did tonight," Corpening said.
Hickman trailed 15-5 before going on a 12-1 run and briefly taking a 17-16 lead in the second quarter. During the run, Corpening glided past a defender near the basket and floated a layup that bounced high off the backboard before falling in.
Corpening's offensive performance inspired her teammates.
"When she starts hitting stuff, she gets really into it and pumps everyone else up," senior Claire Ortbals said.
Ortbals said Corpening also displays vocal leadership, which includes yelling encouragement when she is on the bench.
"She keeps us all together," Ortbals said. "She's very effective at communicating what she wants with everyone on the team."
Corpening has played on varsity since her freshman year and made the starting lineup as a sophomore. She has made an impression on coach Tonya Mirts.
"I don't think you can pick a leader as a coach," Mirts said. "Leaders emerge. She has her team's respect, partly because of the way she leads. She demonstrates. I can land on Aqua as hard as anybody and she responds very positively."
Hickman trailed 21-17 at halftime but took a 24-23 lead in the third quarter off a 3-pointer from senior Megan Fudge-McGrath. The Kewpies led the rest of the game.
Hickman plays next against Moberly at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Southwell Complex at Columbia College in the Norm Stewart Classic.