By Pedro Velazco
Kokomo’s girls basketball team got off to a flying start against Carroll of Allen County on Monday night, scoring 19 points in the first quarter, then withstood several charges from the visitors to put the game away in the fourth quarter for a 59-47 victory.
It was Kokomo’s highest point total of the season and the win gives the Lady Kats a 10-5 record, surpassing last season’s win total of nine.
“I loved the intensity early, and 19 points in the first quarter, that’s something we haven’t done in a while,” Kokomo coach Jason Snyder said. His team led 19-12 at the first quarter break.
The Wildkats got six points in the first quarter from Brayana Fowler, who put the Kats over the top on Friday night against New Castle with the game-winning free throw. Fowler came up big at the line again on Monday with two freebies with 5:13 left in the fourth quarter early in a 12-0 Wildkat run that turned a 44-42 Carroll lead into a 54-44 Kokomo advantage.
The run started with a bucket from Stephanie Helmer, next, the two Fowler freeibes, then a wing jumper from Bri Poe, a free throw by Anastacia Kirby, three freebies by Kendra Ryker and a curling drive by Fowler to put the lead at 10 with less than three minutes to play.
“After [Helmer’s bucket] we were able to get into our press, which we were having a little trouble getting into in the second and third quarters,” Snyder said. “That was a turning point there in the fourth quarter. And then we were able to hold on and make good stops down the stretch.”
Kirby led the Kats with 14 points, Fowler finished with a dozen, and Alanis Jones and Ryker each scored 10. Poe added six.
“I was really excited about the fact that we had four girls in double figures, shared the ball well, and got really nice looks,” Snyder said. “They do a great job of pressuring, putting bodies on you. It was a concern of ours how we could handle their physical pressure. [Against] Richmond and Carmel, that’s something we really struggled with. I thought we did a much better job of handling that [Monday].”
Kirby in particular flourished in the paint. She snagged a game-high 14 rebounds, leading the Kats to a 40-30 rebounding advantage. The All-Area player had seven offensive rebounds alone, to go with three steals, two blocks, and two assists.
“She was able to play more aggressive because of the style of play that they had,” Snyder said of Kirby. “Any time you have seven offensive rebounds — they’re blocking her out, they’re big, they’re strong, and she fought through that — that takes a lot of heart. Fourteen points, 14 rebounds is an outstanding game, one of the best games she’s played in her career.”
Her play embodied the grit the Wildkat squad showed on the defensive end with its disruptive, trapping pressure, and under the basket as they went up against a Charger squad featuring two six-foot post players.
“I just thought Kokomo did a very good job of staying within their game, put on very good pressure, took advantage of their steals and converted,” Carroll coach Mark Redding said. “We had opportunities — loose balls and things we just didn’t get to. I thought their hustle plays were also a difference. That gave them momentum, particularly when we had the lead. They were able to convert on their steals and we didn’t.
Kokomo forced Carroll into 25 turnovers and outscored the Chargers 22-17 in points off turnovers.