By BRYAN GASKINS Kokomo Tribune
---- — Kokomo Red topped Northwestern 43-42 in a double-overtime thriller in the eighth-grade game, keeping Northwestern from a sweep of the City-County girls basketball championships Monday night at Memorial Gym.
Northwestern’s sixth-grade team rolled to a 45-6 win and its seventh-grade team took a 51-24 win.
In the final game of the night, Kokomo Red rallied from an 18-11 halftime deficit to claim the eighth-grade title.
“We talk about fighting to the finish in games all the time, about being tough,” Kokomo coach Bobby Pettigrew said. “The first half, [the Wildkats] just weren’t tough. The second half, they came out a lot tougher. We talk about mental toughness all the time. They proved it [Monday]. They finally grew up.”
Kokomo Red battled back to within one (25-24) by the close of the third quarter. The squads battled through three lead changes and three ties in the fourth quarter. Tevin Deckard gave the Wildkats a 34-33 lead when she scored on a layup with :34 remaining. Northwestern’s Morgan Mercer split a pair of free throws at :15 to knot the score and force the first overtime.
The Tigers went up 38-34 in the first OT, but Sydney Murphy scored a pair of buckets to bring the Kats back and force the second OT.
Savannah Emmons scored inside and Deckard hit two free throws at :28 to put the Kats up 42-38. Northwestern’s Sarah Vas banked in a 3-pointer from the wing at :19.5 to make it a one-point game. After Deckard split a pair of free throws for a 43-41 advantage at :11, Northwestern’s Maci Weeks had a chance to tie the game and force a third OT when she was fouled at the buzzer. She faced the unenviable task of shooting free throws in the face of Kokomo’s rowdy student section and with the lane cleared. She swished her first attempt, but missed her second attempt.
Emmons led the Wildkats (12-2) with a double-double of 13 points and 19 rebounds. She had seven offensive rebounds. Deckard had 13 points and five rebounds, Murphy added nine points and six rebounds and Brittany Barnard had six points and five rebounds.
“It’s a fun group,” Pettigrew said, noting the contributions of other players as well. “They’re going to be fun to watch in the future.”
Vas led the Tigers with 18 points and five rebounds. Kora Loer had 13 points and 16 rebounds (nine offensive), Mercer had seven points and Weeks had four points.
Northwestern coach Todd Miller tipped his hat to the Wildkats.
“It was a great battle,” he said. “It was a one-point ballgame when we played them during the season. We came ready to play and I think they did also. It was a great game.”
The Tigers closed with a 20-2 record.
“I think they overachieved,” Miller said. “They just come to battle every night. I told them we have to be the more physical team and I told them, ‘Don’t leave anything on the court’ and that’s exactly how they played. I feel like going into two overtimes, they gave it their all. No regrets. I congratulate Kokomo and I’m proud of my girls.”
Northwestern’s seventh-grade team beat Kokomo Blue 51-24 to cap a 22-0 season. The Tigers led 12-6 at the end of the first quarter, 23-8 at halftime and 37-15 after three quarters. The Tigers’ active defense forced the Wildkats into 27 turnovers.
Taylor Boruff — whose mother is Kokomo legend Tiffany Longworth — led the Tigers with 19 points, five rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists. Boruff scored a dozen points in the third quarter to break the game wide open.
Also for Northwestern, Katie Neher had 10 points, Allison Miller had six points and 10 boards and Kaylee Watson had six points.
Northwestern coach Haley Hewitt called it an enjoyable season.
“They’re definitely a lot of fun to coach,” she said. “They’re really hard workers. We practice with our eighth-grade group and it’s a competitive practice every single day.
“The girls play on weekends, they’re in the gym after practice for extra shooting. They’re definitely hard workers and they love the game. It obviously pays off on the court.”
Stephanie Burns led Kokomo Blue with 18 points and nine rebounds.
Northwestern’s sixth-grade team beat Kokomo 45-6 to cap a 13-0 season. The Tigers led 8-2 after the first quarter, 23-2 at halftime and 37-4 after the third quarter. The Tigers’ defense forced the Wildkats into 27 turnovers.
Kailey Kidwell led the Tigers with 14 points. Kendall Bostic had eight points, 10 rebounds and three assists. Klair Merrell and Jessica Edwards had six points apiece and Madison Layden had a nice all-around line of five points, seven assists, six steals and three blocked shots. Layden is Northwestern varsity coach Kathie Layden’s oldest daughter.
“This team plays really, really well together,” Tigers coach Kevin Bostic said. “We have a bunch of great girls. They play team basketball. ... The majority of our practice time, we work on fundamentals. We really don’t work on plays a whole lot because we want to develop a skill level at this stage.
“We have about 14 girls on the team and they’ve played with us for several years now. We can’t be more happy with them. The parents really support us.”
Kevin Bostic noted many of the girls play together over the summer.
“One of the things we’ve done recently is play up a grade. When we play in some tournaments, we’ll play at the seventh-grade level so that makes a little more competition.”