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Incarnate Word wins 5th straight title

Blue Springs South secures school's 1st state trophy.
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By Cody Thorn I Photos by Cheap Seats Photography 

SPRINGFIELD — Incarnate Word added yet another milestone to an already impressive history.

The Red Knights won their 12th state title and the fifth in a row by picking up a 67-50 victory over Springfield Kickapoo in the Class 6 championship game Friday afternoon at JQH Arena.

The victory also ran the win streak for the St. Louis private school to 68 in a row, now sitting alone for fifth place in the MSHSAA history books. The win and state title tally might’ve been even higher had the 2019-2020 season concluded before a pandemic shutdown. Incarnate Word was the No. 1-ranked team and made the final four that year but the games were called days prior to the semifinals.

Up 28-21 at halftime, the Red Knights (29-0) built a double-digit lead a little more than a minute into the finals and never looked back.

“We've been working our butts off in practice and, I feel like coming out of the locker room we just gave it all we had we left everything out on the court,” Kentucky signee and Red Knights guard Saniah Tyler said. “It showed.”

Incarnate Word scored 10 of the first 14 points in the second half, six of those came from junior Brooke Coffey. 

After that surge, Kickapoo never pulled closer than 10 the rest of the way.

Incarnate Word dominated in most facets of the game. Four players finished in double figures, led by Tyler’s 24 points – finishing 8-for-16 from the field. Reigning Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year Natalie Potts totaled 15, followed by 13 from Coffey and 11 by Violet McNece in a reserve role. Coffey had five steals, while Potts and Tyler each had three assists.

With Potts, a 6-2 junior, and Coffey, a 6-1 junior, the Red Knights had the height to counter Kickapoo standout Bella Fontleroy, which Blue Springs South didn’t in the semifinals on Thursday. The 6-foot-2 Baylor pledge scored a game-high 25 points but 10 of those came in the first quarter. She finished with a double-double grabbing 10 rebounds.

“Obviously, she's a great player,” said Red Knights coach Dan Rolfes, who is 598-75 at the helm, of Fontleroy. “We've seen her in previous years and played earlier in the year and she makes them go. So we wanted to try to limit her touches as much as you possibly can, make some of their other players score and try to keep her off the glass. You know, she's such a threat offensively and then you just can't give her extra possessions by offensive rebounds. I think we do a very good job of just grinding teams down. We're just going to make them work. For every possession and our process, a lot of times doesn't necessarily result in a turnover. But, in the third and fourth quarters, they're tired, they're dragging, their shots are short and then it also doesn't allow them to set up their offense. With her, we tried to put as many bodies around her as he possibly could.”

The Chiefs (28-4) tried to play the role of underdog and kept it close with the Red Knights early. Down by three after the first (16-13), the Springfield school pulled with one early in the second quarter. Incarnate Word then used a 9-0 run to give itself some cushion.

The matchup problems and facing a team with four of the starting five either going D-I or underclassmen having D-I offers, it was tough for Kickapoo.

“Well, when you can pick your players, it's a lot easier, you know, being able to pick the players you should win,” Kickapoo coach Jim Pendergrass said.

Incarnate Word beat Kickapoo, 62-42, earlier this year at the Stephanie Phillips Classic in Springfield.

Third place: Blue Springs South 63, St. Joseph’s Academy 43

The best season for the Jaguars’ girls basketball program ended with a victory, starting fast and that early boost made the difference in a victory over the Angels in the Class 6 third-place game on Friday morning at the Hammons Student Center.

The No. 6-ranked Jaguars capped the year with a 26-5 record and the program’s first state trophy – after winning the first district title and conference title earlier this year.

Blue Springs South senior guard Saneea Bevley, dealing with a thumb injury, was the team’s hottest shooter on Friday, hitting 7 of her 14 attempts and finishing with 18 points. She also hit four of Blue Springs South’s nine 3-pointers.

Bevley hit back-to-back 3s and then fellow senior Jaidynn Mason drained another one with 2 minutes, 29 seconds left to give the Jaguars a 13-0 lead over the Angels in the first quarter.

By the end of the first quarter, Blue Springs South led 15-4 and scored eight over those points off turnovers.

“It's really hard, I think, to come and play in this third place game and I reached out to several coaches and kind of asked for their advice of how to handle this and what to expect,” Blue Springs South coach Kory Lower said. “But credit to our kids that they came out ready to play a 10 o'clock game is difficult but I felt like we had good energy and we shot the ball a little bit better today.”

Midway through the second quarter the Jaguars built a 25-7 lead behind consecutive layups inside from 6-foot-1 sophomore center Kendall Puryear and then another 3 by Bevley.

Mason, who tied for a game-high with 20 points, hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Blue Springs South a 29-9 lead at halftime.

That marked the second game in a row that the Angels (20-11) were held to nine points in the first half.

The St. Louis private school bounced back in the second half and played the even with the Jaguars. Sophomore center Kayla Jansen, the team’s tallest player at 6-2, got hot in the third and tallied eight, while 5-foot-11 senior forward Kiley Duchardt added six.

The 14-point surge came after the two had a combined five points in the first half.

Despite the success inside, the Angels trailed by 15 points going into the fourth.

Another layup by Jansen, the first points of the fourth, cut the deficit to 13 but that was as close as the upstart Angels – a fourth-seed in districts – would get to the lead.

With 40 seconds left, Lower pulled his starters to an ovation from the Jaguars fans that made the trip to Southwest Missouri.

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