Kala Holder decided she and fellow Olathe South High School seniors Kacey Kennett and Zoe Matje weren’t walking off the basketball court on Senior Night with a loss.
Holder scored nine of her game-high 25 points in the final three minutes on Tuesday night, spurring the Falcons to an 11-1 run down the stretch and a 52-42 victory over Shawnee Mission North.
“I just knew that I needed to step up for my team,” Holder said. “I’m a senior. I’m a captain. I knew they were counting on me and they always look to the seniors in those moments. I just had to be a leader in that moment.”
The senior leadership of Holder, Kennett and Matje has led Olathe South all season, helping the Falcons to an 18-1 record entering Friday’s regular season finale against Olathe East.
“The seniors have been great,” Falcons coach Steve Ingram said. “They kind of show the way for everybody else. They’re the hardest workers in practice and what more could you ask of your seniors. You want your best players to be your hardest workers, and they are.”
Holder, Kennett and Matje have played together since elementary school and are good friends off the court, with each other and the rest of the team. It’s something that has played into 15 of South’s wins coming by double digits.
“I think our family bond that we have has really been the key to our success,” Kennett said. “We’re always doing something together, whether it’s basketball or team-building activities. We’re just a great family team.”
South’s senior leadership took over entering the final minutes on Tuesday with the game tied at 41. Matje made a key block on defense and both she and Kennett handled the ball against SM North’s pressure, helping get the ball to Holder.
“We practice late-game situations and we’re real comfortable with them,” Ingram said. “Those three seniors have been in those situations for three or four years, so they know what’s going on. I thought when it got close, we didn’t panic and we played with a lot of poise.”
Kennett, who will play at Fort Hays State next year, noted that the seniors bring multiple strengths to the court.
“We kind of all feed off each other,” she said. “Zoe, she’s a lockdown defender all the time. Kala can pretty much do it all. She can get to the basket and she can be a post player, even though she’s a bit undersized. It just helps to have all-around players.”
Olathe South looks for its 12th straight state-tournament berth when Kansas substate tournaments start next week. With Holder, Kennett and Matje being key figures on the 2014 Kansas Class 6A third-place squad and last season’s state quarterfinal team that finished 19-4, the Falcons have plenty of postseason savvy.
“We returned four starters coming into the year, and (junior) DejaNae Roebuck has started for two years, too,” Ingram said, “so that combination just gives you so much experience when you get into tough spots.”