By JIM McCARTER
Kokomo’s Lady Wildkats took advantage of a disastrous third quarter for Northwestern, scoring the first 15 points of the second half en route to a 51-34 victory in both teams’ season opener in Memorial Gym Saturday night.
An offensive rebound and putback by Kendra Ryker with five seconds left in the first half gave Kokomo a 25-19 halftime lead, then the Lady Kats essentially put the game away in the first six minutes of the third quarter.
“We came out strong in the first quarter,” Kokomo coach Jason Snyder said. “We led 14-6 at one point, then [Northwestern] coach [Kathie] Layden switched from a man-to-man defense to a 2-2-1 press. Northwestern has a great coaching staff. Even though we had practiced against their zone, we fumbled around and didn’t get into our offense, and didn’t get many good looks at the basket. We talked about the press at halftime and did a much better job in the third quarter.”
Northwestern missed its first six shots of the second half, while turning the ball over 8 times. That allowed Kokomo to stretch its lead to 40-19 with 1:59 to go in the third. Following a Northwestern timeout Hannah Treadway hit a short jumper from the right wing for the Lady Tigers first point of the second half with just 1:30 left in the stanza.
Kokomo really picked up the speed of the game in the third quarter, taking a 40-23 lead into the final period, but Layden, in her first season at Northwestern, thought the pace of the game was not their problem.
“That’s a tempo we are comfortable playing, but we just couldn’t find the basket,” Northwestern coach Kathie Layden explained. “Without hitting any shots, we couldn’t get into our press. A lot of our tentative play at times was due to the girls learning a new system. We’ve only been practicing three weeks and we understand we’ll have some breakdowns. I was proud of the way our girls hustled and didn’t give up. Kokomo is a good team. Jason does a great job.”
Ryker led the Lady Kats with 10 points, closely followed by Bri Poe and Brayana Fowler with nine apiece. Anastacia Kirby added eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
“Our senior leadership was very good [Saturday] night,” Snyder said. “When things got tough in the second quarter we battled hard and ground it out. I was pleased with our balanced scoring. Our two freshmen [Allie Lowe and Kaila Stiner] got over 11 minutes of playing time. We hope to be able to use our depth as an asset as the season goes on.”
Northwestern also had only one player in double figures. Kaitlynd Lear scored 10, Hannah Treadway added 8 points and 6 rebounds, and Brooke Treadway scored 7 for the 0-1 Lady Tigers.
Kokomo, 1-0, faces a tough Logansport team Saturday night at home.
“We start our North Central Conference season early this year,” Snyder said. “We hope to pack Memorial Gym Saturday night. Logan has an exciting team and we think we have an exciting team. It should be a great battle.”