By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
PITTSBURG, Kan. – In a game full of big moments, Carl Junction simply had more of them.
Katie Scott made three-straight free throws to force overtime and Dani Wrensch hit the game-winning three pointer as the Bulldog girls beat Kickapoo 59-58 Saturday afternoon in the championship game of the Bill Hanson Memorial Tournament in Pittsburg, Kansas.
“It was an amazing feeling,” said Wrensch. “Just how we all played so good and to knock that shot down was amazing feeling. And we only got there because of big free throws form Katie Scott. It was a great feeling.”
Freshman Destiny Buerge swung a pass to Wrensch in the far corner after a timeout and the senior nailed it. Kickapoo couldn’t get off a shot before the buzzer sounded.
“We wanted her in the corner because that’s her best shot,” said Carl Junction coach Brad Shorter. “A lot of what she does offensively is pass and get to that corner so we can find her for that three. She hit one in our zone offense about three possessions earlier. When I called that timeout that’s what we drew up.”
As for Scott’s free throws, they were just as big.
The Bulldogs trailed 53-50 after Kickapoo senior Leah Fredrick made a free throw with 9.8 seconds left in regulation. Scott brought the ball down the court, and in one of the more cerebral plays you’ll see at the high school level, heaved a shot from half court with a defender draped on her and 5.5 seconds on the clock.
She was fouled, went to the line and swished all three free throws.
“She’s got ice in her veins, man,” Shorter said. “To hit three free throws of that magnitude, and so quiet, was just unbelievable. We have a drill we’ve been doing in practice called three in a row and it’s three in a row free throws and a lot of times she’s one of our champions in that. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else there. She’s a great free throw shooter, a consistent player for us.”
Kickapoo turned it over on the ensuing inbounds play, giving Carl Junction the ball under its own basket with four seconds still on the clock. Wrensch inbounded to Scott who tried to go up for a shot but was called for a travel.
Then disaster struck for the Bulldogs, who were called for a foul with 1.4 seconds left.
Kickapoo missed both free throws, though, and the game went to overtime tied at 53.
Carl Junction made just two shots in the extra period – both three pointers by Wrensch from the corner. The first gave the Bulldogs a three-point lead, but Kickapoo pulled ahead on baskets by Fredrick and junior Indya Green, which made it 57-56 with 1:50 remaining.
Carl Junction turned it over and missed a shot on its next two possessions. Kickapoo sophomore Kaylee Corbin added a free throw with 17.3 remaining to make it 58-56.
Then came Wrench’s game winner.
The senior’s three pointers snapped a stretch of more than 11 minutes where Carl Junction failed to make a field goal. The Bulldogs entered the fourth quarter leading 41-35 and relied solely on free throws for the rest of regulation.
Scott made nine of them in 11 attempts and the Bulldogs were 12-for-17 from the charity stripe in the fourth.
Kickapoo, too, did its share of damage at the free throw line but also left some points on the floor. Green was 4-for-5 in the fourth quarter and freshman Karli Facklam was 4-for-6. The Chiefs were 9-for-16 as a team in the fourth.
Kickapoo also played shorthanded down the stretch. Two players were sidelined with injuries during the game and by overtime the Chiefs were left without any substitutes.
“I was really proud of our kids’ effort and we continued to battle throughout,” said Kickapoo coach Jim Pendergrass. “We got better tonight with this game. We didn’t come out on top but we got better and our kids showed a lot with our effort. We were able to stay poised and continue to battle. Really proud of our kids. They couldn’t have represented Kickapoo any better. We lost to a good team tonight.”
The Chiefs dropped to 10-7.
Carl Junction, ranked fourth in Class 4, improved to 14-0.
“It’s huge,” Shorter said. “Kickapoo is one tradition-rich program that is well coached and has great players. Obviously their size is difficult for a number of teams to match up with but also their athleticism with that size. Those 6-1 kids move really well, shot the ball well. It was huge for us. This point in the season, kind of moving forward, we needed a game like this to kind of set the tone for the second half.”
Scott led the Bulldogs with 22 points and Wrensch and senior Shila Winder each scored 11.
Fredrick scored 21 for the Chiefs and Green added 16.