The celebration was loud and certainly deserving, but it was short-lived.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
While their student section rushed the court Friday night — the scene symbolic of a major upset — the Kearney Bulldogs insisted they had expected this moment.
Only two days ago, they spoke about embracing an opportunity that intimidated most others — playing undefeated Truman, The Star’s No. 1 ranked big-class girls team.
The Bulldogs got their wish. And they made good on their opportunity.
Kearney dealt Truman its first loss of the season, a 40-35 defeat in a defensively charged Class 5, District 15 championship game at Liberty High School.
“We’ve wanted to play them all season,” said Kearney senior Mackenzie Cook, who scored a team-high nine points. “Yeah, they’re No. 1 in the state and undefeated, but we’ve been overlooked all season. This was our chance to prove ourselves, and we honestly believed we were going to win tonight.”
In stretching its winning streak to 23 games, Kearney — The Star’s fourth-ranked big class team — advanced to the Class 5 sectional round, where it will meet the winner of Saturday’s game between Staley and North Kansas City.
In a game that showcased a pair of defensive-minded teams that are in many ways mirror-images of each other, it was Kearney that made a handful of plays down the stretch to keep its season alive.
The teams swapped leads seven times over the first three quarters, but the Bulldogs retained control for the entire fourth quarter. In typical fashion, seven players scored in the final quarter for Kearney, which expanded its lead to 10 points before withstanding a late attempt at a season-saving rally from Truman.
“That’s the makeup of this team,” Kearney coach Troy Resler said. “There’s no fear with this group. They love a challenge. They saw a chance to win the game, and I think our girls fed off that. They weren’t scared.”
Neither team shot the ball well, but each used a reliable defense to stay in the game.
Kearney missed all nine of its three-point attempts in the opening half, but sophomore Taylor Doan responded by holding Truman center Becca Jonas scoreless over the same time frame.
Bulldogs senior Cassidy Lee banked in a three-pointer in the third period — the team’s lone made shot from distance Friday night — tying the game at 19. Kearney, 24-2, never trailed again.
Equally cold from the field, Truman missed nine consecutive three-point attempts after junior Kayla Harrell buried one to end the first quarter.
Truman guard Abby Hix led all scorers with 11 points. Jonas added nine — all of which came in the fourth quarter.
“We played hard all night, but it was just a defensive struggle for most of the night,” Truman coach Steve Cassity said. “There’s no shame in that. It was a hard-fought battle, but we came out on the short end of it. There’s nothing for us to be ashamed of.”
Fort Osage boys 47, Liberty 45
Fort Osage coach Josh Wilson has spent the better part of the season urging his point guard to shoot the ball more often.
Sophomore Will Penamon picked a good time to obey his coach. Penamon nailed a floater in the lane with seven seconds remaining, lifting Fort Osage to its second straight Class 5, District 15 championship with a 47-45 victory.
The second-seeded Indians, 21-4, led by 16 points midway through the third quarter, but top-seeded Liberty quickly clawed its way back into the game. The Blue Jays, 19-8, tied the game with 37 seconds left when Brandyn Moultrie banked in a three-pointer.
Penamon answered the three-pointer with his second bucket in the final minute. Liberty was unable to get a shot off in the final seven seconds.