By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In a 4-5 matchup, it’s usually anybody’s ballgame.
But, on Friday afternoon, it was all fourth-seeded Kickapoo in a 61-26 victory over No. 5-seeded Blue Eye in a Pink Division quarterfinal of the Pink & White Lady Classic at Drury University’s O’Reilly Family Event Center.
The Lady Chiefs used their size inside to score early and often against the smaller Lady Bulldogs.
The Lady Chiefs scored right out of the gate on a putback by junior forward Indya Green. Once Blue Eye answered on a 15-foot jumper by Riley Arnold, Kickapoo went on a 9-0 run for an 11-2 lead, which it continued to add to before finishing the quarter with a 20-8 advantage.
“That game was kind of a contrast of two different styles – our size inside and their 3-point shooting at the guard spot,” Kickapoo coach Jim Pendergrass said. “I was really proud of our kids. We were able to get the ball inside and finish right around the rim and get a lot of rebounds on both ends. Our guards did a great job of handling the ball against their press – that was the key – and not to give them a lot of easy baskets.”
Which they didn’t. Kickapoo’s size and length didn’t allow the Lady Bulldogs much of an opportunity to get many good looks at the basket. And, when they did get looks, the shots weren’t falling, and the rebounds were going to Kickapoo.
“It was disappointing,” Blue Eye coach Ken Elfrink said. “Hopefully, we learn from it and go from there. (Kickapoo) did a good job. They made shots early and we knew rebounding was going to be a key, and hopefully, (we could) turn them over and make it a full-court game, but we weren’t able to do that. They did a good job and went to a zone and they’re long. We didn’t do a good job of attacking it.”
Elfrink said he was hoping to see more energy and excitement from his Lady Bulldogs, a Class 2 team, and their opportunity to play a Class 5 team like Kickapoo.
“Our press, at times, was OK and at times it was decent, but for the most part we didn’t rotate as much as we should have,” Elfrink said. “I didn’t think the effort was there where it needed to be – I get it, you’re playing on a bigger court, it’s a collegiate court.
“It should have been more of a high-energy game. Coming in playing Kickapoo, you would think they would be more excited, but I was kind of disappointed in the fact that we weren’t. I think we were excited, but I don’t think we were intimidated, either. It’s like when shots fall, things go better for you, and when they don’t, it makes things a little tougher.
“We’ll learn from it and get better, and hopefully, come back tomorrow and see what we can do.”
Pendergrass and his team weren’t taking anything for granted against the small-school Lady Bulldogs.
“They are a very good basketball team, a very well-coached team, and they have a really good chance to win a (Class 2) state championship this year,” Pendergrass said. “We may have very well beaten a state championship team today.”
And, with a thin bench, Pendergrass continued to run people in and out of the game to keep fresh legs and the flow of the game going the Lady Chiefs’ way.
“That’s what we have to have with everybody on our team; we need them all,” Pendergrass said. “We need them all to play well, all of the time. They’re really trying to give their best effort, and I’m really proud of our kids today.”
No. 4 Kickapoo 61, No. 5 Blue Eye 26
Pink & White Lady Classic
Pink Division – Quarterfinal game
KICKAPOO 61, BLUE EYE 26
BLUE EYE 8-10-4-4—26
BLUE EYE (5-3) – Riley Arnold 14, Kohnnar Patton 9, Makayla Johnson 3.
KICKAPOO (6-3) – Kaylee Corbin 16, Leah Fredrick 3, Brooke Turner 2, Rachel Senn 8, Indya Green 20, Madie Barrett 10, Karli Facklam 2.
Up next: Kickapoo vs. Ft. Smith Northside, 5:30 p.m., Saturday at O’Reilly Family Event Center; Blue Eye vs. Carthage, 2:30 p.m., Saturday at O’Reilly Family Event Center