When it comes to high school basketball, Park Hill South junior Samantha Roy is a rare breed. While many of her peers prefer the offensive glory, Roy would just as soon play defense.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Her enthusiasm shows on the floor, too.
In Thursdays opening semifinal of the fourth annual Oak Park Girls Invitational, Roy led yet another strong Park Hill South defensive effort, recording eight steals as part of a 51-37 win against Liberty North .
The Panthers will meet Blue Valley Northwest in the championship at 8 p.m. tonight at Oak Park High School.
I just think defense is more fun thats my favorite thing on the court, Roy said. And I think our defense is the key to our offense. Without our steals, we dont really have an offense.
Thankfully for Roy, the Panthers defense adds a little extra excitement. Park Hill South forced 29 turnovers from Liberty North, which took an early 8-6 lead its only advantage of the game.
From there, Park Hill South switched to its full-court diamond press. The trap immediately turned the tide of the game in the favor of the Panthers, who responded with an 11-0 run. They maintained at least an eight-point lead the rest of the way to improve to a sparkling 12-1 on the year.
From the first day of practice, we worked intensively on ball pressure and pressing, Park Hill South coach Jenny Orlowski said. Even if were not getting steals, its still a motivator for us. The girls play better when we use it.
It made things easier on the offensive end, too. Six players scored at least six points in a balanced attack. Madeline Homoly led the way with 12 points, followed by Roys 10 and nine more from Erica Timmerman.
Liberty North tried to stay in the game behind an impressive outing from point guard Selena Dunn. A crafty driver, she scored 21 points on 10 buckets and a free throw. No other Eagles player scored more than five.
Blue Valley Northwest 59, William Chrisman 48
A little work at the free-throw line can go a long way. Just ask the players for Blue Valley Northwest.
BV Northwest made 23 of its 30 free-throw attempts a 77-percent clip to stave off a William Chrisman second-half comeback attempt. The Huskies made 15 of 20 in the fourth quarter.
Nobody was better than Lauren Coady, who made all eight of her shots from the stripe all in the second half to close out the game as part of a 16-point night.
Mya Mertz, meanwhile, got things started. A freshman post player, Mertz made a pair of layups as Blue Valley Northwest opened the game on a 12-0 run. Mertz finished with 15.
William Chrisman, led by 15 points from Nieka Wheeler, bounced back to play the Huskies even over the remainder of the game. But the Bears, 8-6, never inched closer than six after digging themselves into a deep hole.
It wasnt all good news for BV Northwest. Coady and Madison Jones left the game with injuries in the fourth quarter. Their status for todays championship game will be determined before tipoff, though Coady said she planned to play.
To reach Sam McDowell, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.