Girls Fall Short In Overtime

Girls+Fall+Short+In+Overtime

Senior Lizzy Jeronimus (center) jumps for the ball at tip-off. The Vikings won the tip but went on to lose by two.

For a fraction of a second, West was holding its breath, and the next, a gasp echoed from the stands. Olathe South had just hit a shot with 1.3 seconds left in overtime, a shot that secured them a 71-69 victory. West had fallen short in one of its most contested games their girls basketball team had played in recent years.

The game, played on February 8, was a matchup of two stellar squads: the Shawnee Mission West Vikings, ranked third in the state by the Kansas City Star, and the Olathe South Falcons, ranked just above the Vikings at number two. The Falcons were the 2010 6A State Champions.

“We made a goal at the beginning of the year to beat Olathe South,” senior Lizzy Jeronimus said.

It was hyped to be a stride-for-stride, heavily fought battle between two evenly matched teams.

“Our goal going into the game was to limit Natalie Knight,” Scott Aldrich, Vikings head coach said, “We also wanted to put pressure on the goal to put them into foul trouble.”

Out of the gate, the game actually was stride-for-stride. Both teams went all-out at the beginning of the game, going back and forth between one-point leads. Both teams had a lot in common. They both could rule the lane, they both forced fouls, they both hit open threes from their guards, and they both played hard-nosed defense. Yet Olathe South managed to hold a minimal lead at the end of the first quarter, 19-16.

The second quarter proved that the Vikings were able to hold their own ground on their own floor, as they started building up a short lead, which quickly increased to five points near the end of the quarter. West was able to retain the lead when senior Sophie Stallbaumer swished a three at the end of the half, giving the Vikings a three point lead. This was one of four three-pointers that she would hit in the game, finishing with 16 points. The first half was a game of push-and-shove, as a high number of fouls left three Vikings with two fouls apiece, with a total of eight fouls in the half.

West lost one of their top players in the third quarter, as senior Brooke Katterhenry hit her head on the floor while taking a charge.

“I was just really upset because I wanted to help the team,” Katterhenry said, “I felt bad when I found out I couldn’t go back into the game.”

The fourth quarter was when the pressure began to thicken. Although the Vikings were able to push their lead to 52-44, with Lizzy Jeronimus on the bench, the Falcons pulled back, bringing the game to a tie and eventually a two point lead with a little over a minute to play. This is also when the smallest plays turned out to be important, as senior Erin Copeland forced a jump-ball with under a minute to play, which switched the possession arrow, but kept the ball at the Falcons’ end of the court.

Holding the ball for a good shot, Olathe South eventually threw up a short jumper, which rimmed out. Senior Stacey Mgbike grabbed the offensive board for the Falcons and missed two layups, the second of which came down for another jump-ball, tied up this time with Jeronimus. This gave the Vikings a last chance with 20 seconds left. A good look on a drive to the basket by Jeronimus was blocked and bounced out of bounds, keeping the ball with West, but with just four seconds left. Senior Kaitlin Beeman got the inbound pass and shot a three from the left side, which fell just short, sending the game into overtime.

The overtime proved to be advantageous for the Falcons, who hit back-to-back shots to open the period, both of which they were fouled on, to put them up six, 69-63. Dealing with the adversity of their largest deficit of the game, the Vikings quickly answered with another trey from Stallbaumer, cutting the lead to three. After another defensive stop, the Vikings stepped up once again, with another three coming from senior Kaitlin Beeman, tying the game at 69 apiece.

A timeout by the Falcons with 45 seconds left allowed them to hold the ball for a last shot.

“We really just needed to pressure them, hopefully into taking a bad shot and get the ball back,” Aldrich said.

Backing off defensively, senior Jenn Stanley allowed senior Natalie Knight to drive towards the basket, but two other Vikings were there to force a double team, which allowed her to pass to freshman Bailey Rinehart, who drained the 15-footer from the left baseline with 1.3 seconds to play. She was 0 for 5 shooting in the game before hitting the game-winner.

Junior Megan Balcom finished the game with 13 points,nine of which came from beyond the arc. Knight was the most valuable player for Olathe South though, scoring 16 points (14 in the second half) and recording nine assists, seven rebounds, and three steals.

“Overall, we were very confident going into the game,” Aldrich said, “My main concern was stopping (senior) Natalie Knight. I think we did well stopping everyone else.”

The game was no doubt one of the best on-court performances the Vikings have displayed all season, but their ability to overcome adversity against such a talented team shows their determination and poise with the State Tournament approaching. Although the Vikings fell to 12-2, their only two losses have come to the top two ranked teams in the state. The three snow days last week was a major hindrance in preparing for the game.

“There weren’t a lot of practices leading up to the game. We mainly did scouting and working on what plays they were going to run against us,” Aldrich said.

Jeronimus led the Vikings in scoring with 19 points, 14 of which came in the first half.

“We had to play a full game, and we fought really hard and I feel like we played well as a team,” Jeronimus said.

Other notable players for West were Katterhenry with 14 and Stanley with nine.

“I tried to get more pumped up before the game,” Jeronimus said, “I also felt like I played more aggressive.”

The Vikings stepped up at very important times in the game, often forcing the Falcons into turnovers and bad shots. When Mgbike was able to dominate inside, they worked to eventually stop her (Mgbike still scored a team-high 17 for the Falcons). When the Falcons’ guards were hitting open looks, West soon stopped them and added pressure at the perimeter, eventually forcing turnovers which led to easy points. The game literally came down to a last possession and Olathe South took advantage of it.

“We want to continue to get better and our goal to win state doesn’t change after this game,” Aldrich said, “If we face them again in the State Tournament, we will hope for a different outcome. This game will allow us to grow as a team, and for me to grow as a coach also.”

The large group of seniors has been playing together for a long time, and their preparation and teamwork (especially ball movement) will hopefully pay off in the coming weeks.