Olathe South High School girls basketball coach Steve Ingram was not sure what to expect from his Falcons when they lost reigning Sunflower League Player of the Year Kylee Kopatich to a preseason ACL injury.
Fortunately — and unfortunately — the Falcons have been through this before, and that experience helped propel them to a Lady Eagle Classic Tournament title last weekend in Joplin without their Kansas-bound senior star.
“They knew they would have to make some adjustments without Kylee, and they are making those,” Ingram said. “They are playing great team defense and, offensively, we are sharing the ball well.”
The Falcons now turn to Jordon Morton, the team’s only other senior, for leadership. That should not be much of a stretch. She earned second-team all-league honors last year, averaging 10 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.6 assists per game. She shot 60 percent from the floor.
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Olathe South faces a tough challenge this week with a game against Missouri Class 5 three-time defending state champion Columbia Rock Bridge at the Hy-Vee Shootout. The game will start at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at Avila University.
“They’ve got three girls who I don’t know how you guard,” Ingram said. “It’ll be a fun challenge for us. We have high regard and high respect for them.”
Cougars start strong
The Shawnee Mission Northwest girls basketball team may have a new coach, but the Cougars are not letting that slow down the momentum they achieved last year.
They finished last season with a 16-7 record and 8-3 mark in the Sunflower League, then returned all but one player from that squad. Among their top returners are Brenni Rose, Arielle Jackson and Brooklyn Wagler. Rose averaged 13.3 points per game last year, Jackson 12.2 and Wagler 12. The Cougars also return Tatum Graves, who was honorable mention all-league.
“Brenni and Tatum have been our leading scorers, but everyone has chipped in here or there,” SM Northwest coach Tyler Stewart said. “Across the board we are pretty even and different kids can step up different nights.”
Stewart brings his own winning tradition from Silver Lake High School, where he compiled a 73-22 record in five years with a Kansas Class 3A state championship along the way. SM Northwest is undefeated in their first five games.
“We know it is going to take time and isn’t going to perfect by December, but our goal is to understand what we are doing by March,” Stewart said.
Hy-Vee set to tip-off
This year’s installment of the Hy-Vee Shootout at Avila University will feature seven girls games and five of them feature 913 area schools.
Olathe Northwest will open the tournament and face Truman at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, followed by Class 4A champion Bishop Miege vs. Kearney at 5:30 p.m.
Olathe South plays Columbia Rock Bridge at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday without Kylee Kopatich, who is signed to play at Kansas but is out for the season with a torn ACL.
St. Thomas Aquinas will play Blue Springs at 8:30 p.m. on Friday. On Saturday, there’s intriguing matchup when Blue Valley North faces Class 5A state champion Leavenworth at noon. Leavenworth has players going to Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma State next year.