Lauren Harris, a senior forward, watched from the bench in the second quarter. That’s when she realized what it would take to win the game for the Hickman Kewpies.
“Defense wins games,” Harris said. “I knew it was time to D-up.”
The Hickman Kewpies girls’ basketball team came back to defeat the Springfield Kickapoo Lady Chiefs 54-52 on Saturday at the Arena of Southwell Complex in the Columbia College Girls Shootout. Coming into the game, a USA Today preseason poll ranked the Lady Chiefs 16th in the nation. The StudentSports.com poll ranked the Kewpies 24th.
The Kewpies (6-0) played great defense to shut down the defending Class 5 state champions, limiting the Lady Chiefs to 31 percent shooting in the second half.
With the Kewpies trailing 48-40 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Harris dominated inside. Harris blocked three shots and added a steal in the fourth quarter.
“All I could think about was that when I get back in, let’s go,” Harris said. “We didn’t give up and we kept playing harder and harder.”
The Kewpies took their first lead of the second half at 51-50 with 2:15 left on a Harris basket. Kickapoo was not finished, though, for All-State guard Molly Carter scored with 53 seconds left.
Kickapoo’s lead would not last long, though. Amy Bolerjack hit a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left to give the Kewpies a 54-52 lead. The Lady Chiefs had a chance to tie, but Harris blocked her fifth shot, and Hannah Carter missed a wide-open layup to end the game.
“It took a lot of passion, a lot of intensity and a lot of heart for our team to come back,” Hickman coach Tonya Mirts said. “They could have easily folded … but the didn’t.”
Harris scored eight points and pulled down nine rebounds.
“When we go with her she creates some mismatches,” Mirts said. “She doesn’t allow them to penetrate as deep.”
Solid 3-point shooting propelled the Kewpies in the second half. The Kewpies shot 6-of-9 on 3-pointers and limited the Lady Chiefs to one 3-pointer in eight attempts. Kaela Rorvig led the Kewpies with 15 points, including 4-of-5 on 3-pointers.
“I haven’t really been shooting that well, so getting off to (a fast start) was good for me,” Rorvig said.”
Jodi and Amy Bolerjack added points 11 for the Kewpies. Heather Ezell led the Lady Chiefs with 14.
The Kewpies won despite a second quarter in which the Lady Chiefs outscored Hickman 19-5. Mirts said the quarter was a result of taking Harris out after her second foul early in the quarter and bad shooting.
“I think we lost momentum and losing Harris defensively didn’t help us,” Mirts said. “They hit great 3s and no matter what you do, to play a great high school game you can’t have mental lapses intensity wise on defense, and I thought we did.”
Despite the second quarter, the Kewpies outshot the Lady Chiefs 45 percent to 40 percent and outrebounded them 31-29. Rorvig said the game had added significance because of last year’s loss to the Lady Chiefs in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
“It is a great victory for us,” Rorvig said. “We were so excited about this game, we had this game marked out on our calendar.”
Although Kickapoo played without coach Stephanie Phillips, who is home with her newborn son, Mirts said the Lady Chiefs looked strong.
“This is their first game of the year and they don’t have very many kinks to iron out,” Mirts said. “But I’m sure we had a little advantage because they didn’t have a game under their belt.”