WASHINGTON, Mo. — The Kewpies had to take a step back to see the way to the next round of the state playoffs.
Hickman took off its press in the second half and cruised to a 67-44 victory against Francis Howell in the sectional round of the playoffs Wednesday at Borgia High.
Francis Howell (19-9) took advantage of an unusual lack of intensity from Hickman (28-1) in the first half to keep the game close. Hickman led 30-16 at half, but coach Tonya Mirts said she did not see the usual fire in her team.
“I just felt like we weren’t getting the turnovers that we wanted,” she said. “We were letting them get some easy buckets, and we wanted to sit down, and kind of muscle-up and play half-court defense.”
Burger leads resurgence
Stephanie Burger, a senior guard, was a prime example of the Hickman turnaround. She picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter, followed by another with seconds to go in the first half.
The foul trouble got in the way of Burger’s offense, for she had two points in the first half. Burger said she knew what she had to do to help her team in the second half.
“I knew in the second half I had to come out not so aggressive, and I knew my teammates were going to be there to help me out,” she said.
Burger scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half.
Mirts said Burger’s defense helped out her offense.
“I just thought she played really smart defense,” she said. “She wasn’t too overly aggressive. She penetrated and dumped before the double-team could come over and take a charge. I thought she played smart.”
Burger said she could not have done it alone.
“My teammates just got me the open looks, and I was able to knock a few down,” Burger said. “Every night any player on our team can step up, so tonight I was able to get the shots.”
It was appropriate that Burger was the one to receive the shots, for her 18th birthday was Tuesday.
Burger was not alone in her success. Lauren Harris, a senior center, stopped Francis Howell’s inside game with nine blocks. Harris said that her defense made up for her lack of offense, although she scored 14.
“It just wasn’t my night offensively, so I’d just see what I could do on defense,” she said.
Harris’ teammates said she might have been hard on herself when it came to offense.
“I thought she still had a pretty decent offensive night,” Burger said. “She got some good looks at the basket, but she always helps us out on the defensive end. ... She had some huge blocks for us. She always works hard on the defensive end, so we always try to reward her on the offensive end.”