An intimidating and unique setting disturbed Kearney junior Meagan Paul’s jump shot. Luckily for the Bulldogs, though, that was only in warmups.
BY SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
After a 20-minute practice session, Paul had figured out the Independence Events Center backdrop. In fact, you could say she perfected it.
Paul buried three three-pointers in the first half, providing enough offense as Kearney moved past North Kansas City 42-32 in the Class 5 sectional round. The Bulldogs, 25-2, extended their winning streak to 24 games and will meet Blue Springs at 7:45 p.m. Saturday back at the Independence Events Center.
“I had to get here early and try to get my shot going,” Paul said. “It was really scary at first because it’s so different, but I got into a rhythm, and it felt really good.”
Paul’s sharpshooting provided a few offensive highlights on a night otherwise dominated by defense.
Once again, Kearney managed to take an opponent’s star player out of the game offensively. North Kansas City leading scorer Lexus Bradley managed only five points in the game. Hornets junior Aries Washington scored 15, but none of her teammates finished with more than five.
“On defense, we’re so active,” Paul said. “We want to play defense. It’s our No. 1 key to winning. Our defense has to be there to win the game, and it was again tonight.”
Kearney found its best offensive success when working the ball down low to sophomore Taylor Doan, a 6-4 post player who finished with 13 points.
Blue Springs 56, St. Teresa’s Academy 42
A hard-earned lesson is always easier to swallow when it’s coupled with a victory.
It wasn’t one of Blue Springs’ prettier performances, but the Wildcats turned a four-point halftime lead into a double-digit victory Wednesday night. They will advance to the Class 5 quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive year.
“There were three things we talked about not letting them do, and we let them do all three,” Blue Springs coach Mark Spigarelli said. “We gave up offensive boards, we let them drive at will, and we fouled them like crazy. They did all the things we talked about not letting them do.”
In the process, a mismatch on paper turned into a competitive game for the first three quarters.
The Stars, 11-16, made four three-pointers in the first half to stay within shouting distance. Grace Kitts led St. Teresa’s with 14 points.
Blue Springs, 27-2, played much of the first half without leading scorer Lizzy Wendell, who sat out with early foul trouble. In her place, fellow senior Karyla Middlebrook responded with a game-high 16 points.
Wendell finished with 10 points.