By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
For Kickapoo High School senior Hannah Collins, winning the Lady Chiefs’ home finale on her home court was important. To do it on Senior Night and securing an Ozark Conference championship was icing on the cake.
Collins scored 12 of the Lady Chiefs’ 20 fourth-quarter points to lead Class 5 No. 3 Kickapoo to a 60-49 OC victory over No. 6 Waynesville on Thursday night for its second-straight OC championship.
“It was very exciting,” Collins said. “We came in prepared and got it finished. It was exciting to do it on Senior Night and my last time playing on this floor. It was important to finish with a win on this court. Playing at this school has meant a lot to me.”
Kickapoo jumped out to a 6-0 lead to open the game, but Waynesville stormed back going on a 10-0 run to close the quarter with a 22-15 lead, sparked by senior Re’Shawna Stone’s 11 points.
Neither team was able to get much going offensively in the second quarter as a combination of defensive pressure, turnovers, fouls and missed shots limited the scoring opportunities with each team putting up seven points in the quarter.
Still, Waynesville had the advantage (29-22) going into the locker room.
With a focus on defense, Kickapoo turned the game in its favor in the second half.
“The whole game changed when we did a better job on defense,” Kickapoo coach Jim Pendergrass said. “We were able to get stops. We were able to get charges against them and our defensive positioning was better. It all changed on the defensive end, on the rebounding end, and it took them all to get stops when we had to have them.”
The Lady Chiefs, who improved to 22-3 overall and a perfect 9-0 in the OC, were able to limit Waynesville’s second-chance opportunities and rebounds – something that Lady Tigers coach Brittany Matlock agreed changed the game.
“We tell ourselves that we need to ‘do us’ on the offensive and defensive end and not worry about things that are out of our control,” Matlock said. “Credit to Kickapoo – a good team, a well-coached team – coming into the fourth quarter, they got us out of our comfort zone.
“As they made a little run, we kind of stood around on offense and they took away some of our options and we just have to be ready to adjust to whatever the other team does. You’ve got to credit them and the effort they gave on the defensive end.”
The game went from a one-point Kickapoo lead (47-46) midway through the fourth quarter to a 10-point lead (58-48) with just 1:55 to go.
Collins got support from a couple of freshmen – Chloe Merced added 17 points and five rebounds, while Indya Green chipped in with 10 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.
Stone, who pulled closer to 1,500 career points, led all scorers with 23 points for Waynesville (19-4, 6-2).
Winning its second-straight OC title was a challenge – as they all have been for Kickapoo, Pendergrass said.
“It shows a lot about our team.” Pendergrass said. “This year, we had to win on the road at some tough places – having to win at West Plains; having to win at Rolla; Camdenton and Waynesville have had great seasons; we had to go to Glendale and win a close game.
“It’s been a great league this year with a lot of really good coaches and a lot of good players.”
And, his seniors have played been a big part in that success. Collins has been a constant all year, but fellow senior, Jordan Wersinger, was lost for the season after tearing her ACL last summer.
“This season in particular, Hannah has shown a great deal of leadership,” Pendergrass said. “She is our most-experienced player on the floor right now. She’s had a fantastic career – both of those kids have – Jordan has, as well.
“Both of those kids have been part of a state championship team (Class 5 in 2016); both those kids have won a lot of games in their career here. They won conference championships and district championships and a state championship. They’ve accomplished a lot and our program appreciates everything that they have brought to it.”
KICKAPOO GIRLS 60, WAYNESVILLE 49
Ozark Conference game
Waynesville (19-4, 6-2) – Victoria Perry 9, Re’Shawna Stone 23, Naudia Evans 4, Kiara Shoulders 8, Afatia Poinsette 2, Mackenzie Coleman 3.
Kickapoo (22-3, 9-0) – Chloe Merced 17, Hannah Collins 21, Rachel Senn 7, Indya Green 10, Leah Fredrick 3, Madie Barrett 2.
Kickapoo B 29, Waynesville B 21