By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In a battle of undefeated teams in the Ozark Conference, the Kickapoo Lady Chiefs delivered the knock-out punch in overtime with an 82-75 victory over the Camdenton Lady Lakers on Monday night.
“This was a big game in the conference standings,” said Kickapoo coach Jim Pendergrass, whose team improved to 18-3 overall and 4-0 in the OC. “Our kids found a way to win tonight against a very well-coached team.”
From midway in the first quarter and the remainder of the first half, it was all Kickapoo as the Lady Chiefs cruised to a 38-27 lead behind the 12 points of 5-foot-10 freshman Chloe Merced and the 10 of senior Hannah Collins, plus points from five other players.
But Camdenton came out of the locker room and took it to the Lady Chiefs, outscoring them 20-11, with 10 of those points coming from junior Natalie Basham.
“I’m very proud of our young ladies,” Camdenton coach Staci Caffey said. “They battled and they came in and did the little things that we needed to in the third quarter. We talked about it at halftime and getting Basham back – it just seemed like every touch was a foul against her; we just got unlucky there. But I felt like she came back and did a great job in the second half.”
It wasn’t until the start of the fourth quarter that Camdenton pulled even with Kickapoo (49-49) on a bucket from Basham. And, from that point on, it was punch, counter-punch as the two teams traded baskets.
“They made some really tough shots in the third quarter, and they were able to get to the line,” Pendergrass said. “They did everything they needed to do in a game like this.”
The Lady Lakers pulled ahead 57-53 with about five minutes to go in the fourth, but Kickapoo went on a 5-0 run to pull ahead 58-57. The Lady Chiefs pushed the lead to four points (62-58), but Camdenton came right back to tie it at 62.
A 3-point play by Collins put Kickapoo back on top, 65-62, before Shelby Kurtz’s 3-pointer with 45.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter sent the game to overtime.
But it was too much Collins, who scored 21 of her game-high 35 points in the final two quarters.
The sharp-shooting senior hit a 3-pointer and a left-handed layup, as Kickapoo took a 72-71 lead with just under two minutes to go in the game. She also went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line, while Merced hit 4 of 4 from the line.
“I’ve been working on my free throws a lot this year, so I feel like I was a lot more prepared coming into this game, so I wasn’t as nervous,” Collins said.
“She really stepped up and her experience showed tonight,” Pendergrass said of Collins. “She’s a senior. She’s been through it. I’m really proud of what she did to lead our team.
“But it was a team win. We had kids step at different times and it’s been that way all year. They played to their strengths and that’s what’s made us successful.”
And four of those players are freshmen – all who stand 5-10 and taller.
“For us, that whole class has had to step in and play a lot,” Pendergrass said. “Chloe has been consistent, and Mandie Barrett, Indya Green and Rachel Senn – those four have played a lot of varsity minutes already.”
And, despite losing its first conference game of the season and snapping a seven-game winning streak, Caffey was proud of her team’s effort.
“We hang our hat on just being aggressive and giving it everything we have and playing with our heart, and I felt like they did that tonight,” Caffey said. “We know Kickapoo is a great program. They’re traditionally strong and Coach Pendergrass does a great job with them, so it was a tough loss but nothing to hang our head about.”
Camdenton (13-5, 3-1) will travel to Glendale on Thursday night, while Kickapoo will face Parkview, a 52-48 winner over Ozark on Monday night.
KICKAPOO GIRLS 82, CAMDENTON 75 (OT)
Ozark Conference game
Camdenton (13-5, 3-1) – Shelby Kurtz 7, Coley Rezabek 18, Kylie Meier 5, Abbie Miller 12, Natalie Basham 16, Megan Vest 11, Darby Roam 6.
Kickapoo (18-3, 4-0) – Chloe Merced 20, Hannah Collins 35, Jaden Wiley 6, Rachel Senn 2, Indya Green 7, Madie Barrett 4, Leah Fredrick 8.
Kickapoo B 55, Camdenton B 50