816 North Sports

Free throws help Kearney girls finish season on high note

Kearney’s Abby Couch (front) wrestled for a loose ball during the Bulldogs’ loss to Incarnate Word Academy in the Class 4 girls’ basketball state semifinals March 16 at JQH Arena in Springfield. The Bulldogs bounced back to beat Miller Career Academy 61-52 in overtime during the third-place game.
Kearney’s Abby Couch (front) wrestled for a loose ball during the Bulldogs’ loss to Incarnate Word Academy in the Class 4 girls’ basketball state semifinals March 16 at JQH Arena in Springfield. The Bulldogs bounced back to beat Miller Career Academy 61-52 in overtime during the third-place game. Special to The Star

With the score tied and 32 seconds left in regulation, Kearney’s Taylor Frizzell went to the free-throw line and missed two shots.

She more than made up for that in overtime.

Frizzell made eight straight from the stripe in the extra period and propelled Kearney to a 61-52 victory against Miller Career Academy of St. Louis on March 17 during the Class 4 girls’ state tournament third-place game at JQH Arena.

Frizzell needed no atonement, not with the confidence Kearney coach Troy Resler and her teammates had in the 5-foot-10 junior guard.

“Taylor’s our best player and I say that all the time,” Resler said. “For a moment I felt bad for her, but I saw look in her eye and I knew and these girls knew, too.”

Frizzell, a 69-percent free throw shooter, admitted to some butterflies when she was fouled and went to the line less than a minute into overtime. She made her first to give Kearney the lead for good, but missed the second.

That would be her only miss even as Miller Career Academy kept fouling her and putting her on the line.

“I was a little disappointed in myself, because I shoot lots and lots of free throws,” Frizzell said. “I was a little nervous at first but after I started making them I knew that I could make the rest.”

Abby Couch, whose back-to-back three pointers in the fourth quarter brought Kearney (26-4) back from a six-point deficit, led the Bulldogs with 16 points. Frizzell finished with 15 after going 12 for 16 from the line.

After falling in overtime to Incarnate Word Academy 49-47 during the semifinals the day before, the Bulldogs got to end their second-ever state tournament appearance — and first since 1986 — on a positive note.

“It’s not the game we wanted to play in, but if we’re thinking of that still then we’re probably in trouble,” Resler said. “I told them a third-place trophy in the trophy case ... looks a (heck) of a lot better than a fourth-place trophy.”

One of those days

Liberty’s Jalen Lewis has played enough basketball to know that some days the shots go in and some days they don’t.

In his last game as a Blue Jay, they didn’t.

Lewis’ illustrious Liberty career came to an end with a 68-47 loss against Columbia-Rock Bridge on March 16 during the Class 5 boys’ third-place game. The 5-foot-9 senior guard finished with 15 points, but he missed 8 of 10 shots in the first half and was 3 for 10 for the game from three-point range.

“Basketball is a game of makes and misses,” Lewis said. “I’ve been in that position where I’ve struggled it the field; I’ve been in that position where I’ve done great in the field. It’s just something that comes with playing this game.”

Rock Bridge coach Jim Scanlon said he made it a top priority to stop Lewis, especially after watching him hit eight threes and ring up 40 points in Liberty’s 81-61 loss to eventual state champion Webster Groves the night before in the semifinals.

Rock Bridge also made sure Lewis wasn’t the only Blue Jay who struggled. Liberty made only 19 of 57 shots (33.3 percent), including 5 of 25 three-pointers, in a game it trailed from start to finish.

It certainly wasn’t the way Liberty coach Roger Stirtz wanted to see Lewis bow out. Lewis, who has signed with Washburn, leaves as the Blue Jays’ all-time leading scorer with 1,816 career points, and he leaves with the admiration of his coach and his teammates.

“Everyone sees the performances on the court, and what they don’t see is the stuff off the court,” Stirtz said. “He’s a better kid than a player.”

Liberty’s girls also made the state semifinals, losing 51-29 against Kirkwood and finishing the season with a 49-48 loss against St. Joseph’s Academy in the Class 5 girls’ third-place game.

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