With a swift move of her left arm, Shawnee Mission Northwest High School senior Brenni Rose poked the basketball away from her Olathe East opponent for a steal.
The play came with 30 seconds left in Tuesday’s game at Olathe East. It represented the Cougars’ defensive dominance during the second half, when SM Northwest held the Hawks to two made shots and six total points. It also sparked the Cougars to a 41-32 road victory.
“Defense has been our true focal point all year because we don’t have that many true scorers on offense, so we have to get stops on defense,” said Rose, who led SM Northwest with 18 points. “The first half we kind of got away from that and that was the main thing we talked about at halftime. We really came out in the second half and executed on defense.”
In a battle of two of the Sunflower League’s top girls basketball teams, SM Northwest at one point held Olathe East scoreless for nearly nine minutes. The Cougars, who improved to 15-2 entering Friday’s game at Shawnee Mission West, are giving up less than 35 points per game.
“That’s just our girls knowing matchups, the scouting report and knowing how we’re going to defend their actions,” SM Northwest coach Tyler Stewart said. “That starts in practice and the girls have carried through and done a great job.”
Trailing 26-22 at halftime, the Cougars went ahead for good early in the third quarter, following a three-pointer from Shelbie McLain and a basket by Rose.
Danielle Rehor hit a shot from behind the arc and Jordan Nachbarr connected on a short jumper to give SM Northwest breathing room in the fourth quarter. Rose’s layup following her steal all but clinched the win for SM Northwest.
It marks the second time SM Northwest has defeated Olathe East this season, the only team from Kansas to do so.
“Olathe East is a really good team,” Stewart said. “They’re going to make noise in the postseason. It’s something where we’re glad to come into their home court and get a win.”
Olathe East, 14-3 entering Friday’s game against Lawrence Free State, took a 12-4 lead in Tuesday’s game behind three-pointers from Katie Gleason and Hope Owens. SM Northwest battled back to eventually take a lead in the second quarter, thanks to Rose and Nachbarr, who scored eight of her 12 points in the first half. Two baskets from Sydney Wilson helped Olathe East go ahead at halftime.
“We knew they were going to come out and have a lot of energy and they hit us early,” Stewart said. “What I liked is our girls didn’t put their heads down and we just grinded it out and our toughness showed through as we had a great second half, defensively.”