With 4.4 seconds left in a tie game, the Olathe East girls basketball team put its fate in the hands of sophomore guard Caroline Hoppock.
It turned out to be the right strategy.
After driving into the lane and picking up a foul, Hoppock made her second free throw, giving the Hawks a 37-36 victory over Blue Valley Northwest in the Ka-Mo Classic championship at Blue Valley North.
“We had a little play that we like for Caroline, and we haven’t used it very much so we thought we could get a clean look,” Hawks coach Clint Evans said. “I’d much rather have a kid attacking the rim than trying to win the game on a jump shot.”
Although he said he was confident watching her shoot the second free throw, moments earlier Evans had been clutching the arm of assistant coach Brian Martin, hoping for a little bit of the magic that propelled Martin’s Hawks to back-to-back Kansas Class 6A state volleyball championships.
“It feels good that the coach believes in me that I can do a play like that and pull it out for the win,” Hoppock said with a nervous laugh.
The ending seemed a fitting cap on a wild fourth quarter in which Blue Valley Northwest scored eight unanswered points to tie the game with just less than 2 minutes left. The run included a pair of free throws after a bench technical on Evans.
“Stupid play by me getting a technical, but we weren’t getting a lot of love at the end,” Evans said. “We had a kid get run over, and I am going to stand up for my kids. I put them in a bad spot, but they picked me up.”
The victory was the fifth straight for the Hawks, who improved to 8-4 on the season. It was their first Ka-Mo team title in the 34-year history of the tournament.
The Huskies, on the other hand, saw a four-game winning streak end and dropped to 6-4 on the season.
Lauren Kirk led the Hawks with 14 points. Sydney Wilson added 12.
Olathe East’s Valencia Scott was selected to the all-tournament team along with BV Northwest’s Lade Adepoju, Blue Springs’ Brianna Tauai, Shawnee Mission West’s Morgan Mauck and BV North’s Micaela Delagarza, who was named tournament MVP.
For the Hawks, who started two sophomores and a freshman on Friday, the victory also stands as a sign they can compete against some of the tougher teams in their district.
“We have a lot of young kids, so it is a building block, but we have a lot of tough games ahead of us,” Evans said. “Hopefully it gives us confidence that we can beat good teams.”
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