Before the tipoff of Friday’s Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Association Girls All-Star Challenge, it was glaringly obvious that Kansas enjoyed a significant height advantage over Missouri at Shawnee Mission South. Kansas started three players who were 6 foot 3 or taller.
The last thing Missouri needed was for Kansas to knock down three-pointers because the boards belonged to Kansas.
When St. Thomas Aquinas 6-3 senior Claire Ferguson knocked down a three-pointer just before halftime, it spelled trouble for Missouri. The basket gave Kansas a 17-point halftime advantage. Kansas went on to win 83-76.
“I have never hit a three in an actual high school game,” Ferguson said. “It was fun and surprising.”
The first sign that Missouri was in for a long first half happened when Taylor Westrom of Blue Valley Southwest came off the bench and hit a three-pointer, giving Kansas a 5-2 lead.
A few minutes later, Westrom hit her second three-pointer, making it 12-5. Jabria Leggett of Mill Valley took over from there. She used her speed to get to the basket. She scored 12 points in the first half.
“It was a great getting the team going and the fans excited,” said Leggett, who finished with a game-high 21 points. “It was a cool time, seeing how other girls played.”
Kansas’ lead slowly grew, and when Leggett drilled a three-pointer with 5 minutes left in the first half, Kansas the team from the Sunflower state held a 32-16 lead.
“It was so nice,” Ferguson said of the height advantage. “We could just throw it up and somebody was there to get it.”
At halftime, Kansas held a 39-22 lead. Kansas pulled down 12 more rebounds and made five three-pointers compared to one for Missouri.
Early in the second half, Missouri showed Kansas some full-court pressure and was able to cut into the deficit. Three straight baskets helped Missouri close to 48-38. But Kansas weathered the run by Missouri and spurted its lead to 57-41 with 11 minutes left.
Despite the huge deficit, Missouri kept battling. Missouri scored the next six points and once again found itself trailing by 10 at 57-47.
After Kansas went up 61-47, Missouri finally cut its deficit under 10 when Austin Richardson of Lee’s Summit West scored a field goal, making it 61-52 with 8 minutes left.
“It was very competitive,” Leggett said.
Tyler Johnson of Leavenworth and Madaline Homoly of Bishop Miege each scored 11 points for Kansas.
Leading the way for Missouri was Lee’s Summit West’s Calloway, who finished with 14 points. Kyessence Collins of Raytown scored 13 and Aliyah Lee of Blue Springs added 12.