A moment that should have fazed North Kansas City senior Lexus Bradley instead felt rather familiar. Perhaps even comfortable.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
It was her turnover Saturday that ignited Staley’s second-half charge in the Class 5, District 16 girls championship game at Park Hill South. The Falcons’ run erased a halftime deficit and forced North Kansas City to play from behind in the fourth quarter.
This is where that comfort level comes in. The leader of a team that has won five games by six points or fewer during a 13-game winning streak, Bradley once again found her stride when it counted most.
Bradley scored 10 of her team-high 21 points in the final 8 minutes, lifting North Kansas City to a 53-43 comeback win and the team’s first district championship since 2001.
A senior point guard, Bradley ignited a 13-1 run to start the fourth quarter, scoring seven points in the first 2 minutes of the quarter. The Hornets, 24-3, led the rest of the way.
“We just know how to win it in the end,” Bradley said. “Coach told me to keep attacking and that we needed to penetrate, so that’s what I did.”
In fact, Hornets coach Jeff Lacy had a simple message for his team as it broke its huddle for the start of fourth quarter.
“We’ve been here before,” Lacy calmly told his players. “You know what to do.”
A team that has become increasingly accustomed to winning — but not necessarily in convincing fashion — stayed true to form Saturday afternoon.
In the two teams’ previous meeting on Jan. 21, North Kansas City freshman Selena Salas banked in a three-pointer at the final buzzer for a one-point win.
The Hornets needed no dramatics this time. After inconsistency marked the first three quarters, Bradley and Salas took over the game offensively with a combined 19 points in the fourth quarter. The duo made 10 of 11 free throws to seal the game and sweep a three-game season series with Staley.
“I think this group has more of a desire to win than any group I’ve ever coached,” Lacy said, trying to explain his team’s ability to win close games consistently. “They have that mind-set that they refuse to accept losing. I know that sounds cliche, but the bottom line is they have a strong will to win.”
Staley showed some moxie of its own, swinging the game in its favor with a third-quarter run led by junior Monique Townson.
With Bradley performing admirably in her defensive duties against Staley’s lone senior, Marissa Preston, the Falcons turned to Townson for their offense. She responded with a 22 points, including 11 in a third quarter in which Staley turned a six-point deficit into a one-point advantage.
Townson drove the lane with regularity — a vast difference from the opening half, in which Staley settled for 14 three-point attempts — but she was the only player to score more than seven points for the Falcons, who ended the season 14-10.
“We were wanting to do more of that and get inside the lane area, but we got caught up in the moment of the fast-paced game,” Staley coach Sherry Butts said. “That’s not really who we are.”