Springfield, Mo. (For OzarksSportsZone.com) -- Defense can prove to be the key component to winning a game. In a battle on the road, the away squad, Kickapoo, piled on the points early against an under-matched Central team. The Lady Chiefs walked out of The Pit victorious, 57-22.
Kickapoo came out methodical on offense, passing the ball well between their post players in the paint and sharp-shooting guards on the perimeter. Though they were keeping the game at a slower pace early in the first quarter, Kickapoo was able to continuously grow their lead.
The Lady Chiefs began the game on an 11-0 run. It was not until Central freshman Jaslyn Williams knocked down a jump shot with eight seconds remaining in the opening period that her team got on the scoreboard.
“I thought we did a better job tonight of making the extra pass and finding open teammates,” Kickapoo head coach Jim Pendergrass said. “We did not settle for alright or good shots, but we found great shots.”
One of the reasons Kickapoo was able to establish and continue their early game success was because of their defense. Across the line up, the Lady Chiefs had a clear height advantage. Able to clog the lane and prevent dribble penetration, Central’s main form of offensive production, Kickapoo never allowed the Lady Bulldogs to gain momentum on a rhythm on offense.
“I thought they did a great job on defense of playing hard, communicating well, and always getting in good position,” Pendergrass said.
The other key reason as to why Kickapoo was able to dominate the first half was offensive rebounding. Central could not keep the Lady Chiefs off of the glass, allowing them to get more opportunities at coming away with points.
“For us, rebounding is a huge key in our games,” Pendergrass said. “Natalie Closser had eight offensive rebounds in the first half alone, allowing us to get second chances and gain confidence.”
To go along with her rebounding efforts, Closser, only a sophomore, added 13 points in the first half. She ultimately finished the game with a team-high 15 points. Junior Hannah Schumacher and freshman Hannah Harding also contributed to the Lady Chiefs dominating effort in the interior.
Turnovers were a large factor as to why Central was unable to get their offensive game on track. Kickapoo’s full court and pressure defenses were strong and unbreakable by Central’s guards. When they did have opportunities to break the pressure being applied, the Lady Bulldogs had trouble with finishing possessions and making them count. The result proved to be a 34-9 halftime lead for Kickapoo.
“We came out ready to play and got the momentum early,” Kickapoo freshman Laura Vierkant said. Vierkant was the Lady Chiefs’ next highest scorer in the first half behind Closser, with nine points. “We all rotated on defense, worked hard, and didn’t give up, which is a huge part of our game.”
Kickapoo continued to roll in the second half, outscoring Central by 10 points in the combined final two quarters. In that time frame, Kickapoo was able to rest many of their starters and allow their role players quality playing time. Already without starting sophomore point guard Bre Taylor, who was injured in the Lady Chiefs’ last game against Hillcrest, Kickapoo wanted to ensure the team remained as healthy and rested as possible for the schedule coming ahead.
“This is a very big confidence booster for us and hopefully will get us ready to play West Plains on Monday,” Vierkant said.
Kickapoo will return home Monday to play the Zizzers from West Plains, while Central will be participating in the Marionville Tournament, which kicks off Monday as well.
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