By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. — Skyline’s Kaylee DaMitz has made a four-year living driving through opposing lanes. The 2017 Class 2 Player of the Year has been an offensive puzzle only a select few teams have been able to solve.
In Friday’s Class 2 third-place match-up, the senior standout had plenty of help in a 64-35 romp over Northeast (Cairo).
The Lady Bearcats found few answers for Skyline’s lethal trio of DaMitz, junior Autumn Garrett and senior Chloe Cole, who combined for 49 points.
Skyline jumped out to an early lead thanks to a 10-0 run in the second quarter. The Lady Tigers led 23-13 at the break, while holding Northeast to a mere 5 points in the quarter.
After a disappointing 63-57 loss to Neelyville in the semifinals, Skyline head coach Kevin Cheek credited his team for its resolve.
“For us, it could have been hard to have the right intensity level today,” Cheek said. “We kind of trusted these kids — these seniors — to do the right things all year, and they have. Pretty proud of their effort. Third-place games are hard to play, especially after a tough one the night before.”
Northeast rallied in the second half behind junior Mackenzie Dubbert’s 15 points (she would finish with a game-high 24); however, the Lady Bearcats were unable to slow Skyline’s momentum.
The Lady Tigers opened the third quarter with a 13-3 run on a series of steals and transition layups keyed by Garrett and senior Sarah Cunningham.
Cheek praised the 5-foot-5 Garrett’s athleticism and lock-down abilities on the defensive end.
“Sooner or later, that kid she’s guarding is just going to throw their hands up and say, ‘I’m done,’” Cheek said. “[Garrett] does a good job at trying to force that issue and trying to get that kid there early. Athletically, she’s phenomenal, and she’s a kid that you can really challenge defensively and say, ‘You have her … do what you can do.’”
With his team playing in its sixth-straight trip to the final four, Cheek also discussed the difficult journey throughout the postseason.
“It seems like — the last couple of years — there’s probably a lot more pressure to get here than there is after you get here,” Cheek said. “I always felt like that sectional game; that quarterfinal game is the hardest because — years in the past — we were playing not to lose that game.”
Fortunately for Skyline, this team has bucked that particular trend.
“What impressed me most about these kids is that from districts on — this year especially — they never played a game where we were trying not to lose,” Cheek said. “We just played the way we’ve always played. That’s really hard as a senior, I think, to be able to do that and not worry about it.”
Key to that focus has been DaMitz and her consistent play.
Finishing with 20 points, 5 assists and 5 steals, the senior checked out for the final time at the game’s 3:00 mark to a thunderous ovation from the Skyline faithful.
“It’s been an amazing ride,” DaMitz said. “I’m so grateful for everybody — all the supporters and my teammates, and I guess [Cheek] a little. I’m just really thankful and glad I was a part of the Skyline tradition.”
Cheek was quick to praise his senior group of DaMitz, Cunningham, Chloe Cole, Savannah Owen, Kristen Miller and Valen Logan.
“We’re going to graduate a group of seniors that, I think I decided they were like 116-15 in four years,” Cheek said. “If you’ve got a group of kids that can do that, my job’s pretty easy.”
Garrett and Cole joined DaMitz in double figures with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Class 2 3rd Place Final: Skyline – 64, Northeast (Cairo) – 35
Skyline 09 17 18 20 — 64
Northeast 08 05 15 07 — 35
Skyline scoring: Kaylee DaMitz – 20, Autumn Garrett – 15, Chloe Cole – 14, Sarah Cunningham – 4, Savannah Owen – 3, Kristen Miller – 3, Keelie Holmes – 3, Hannah Gruber – 2
Northeast scoring: Mackenzie Dubbert – 24, Keegan Ryan – 5, Kayla Koester – 2, Taegan Bartolacci – 2, Brynn Winkler – 1, Cortnie Canote – 1