LOGANSPORT — Playing against a team they had handled comfortably in the regular season, the Kokomo Wildkats found themselves in a tussle over the first half of their Class 4A Logansport Girls Basketball Sectional opener against Lafayette Jeff Tuesday night. Both teams had turned the ball over a lot, and the Wildkats were clinging to a three-point lead, 16-13 at the break.
The Wildkats regrouped at halftime and blitzed Jeff in the third quarter. The Kats eventually opened up a 20-point lead before finishing off a 49-35 victory.
“That was a great third quarter,” Kokomo coach Jason Snyder said. “The great thing about playing on a Tuesday night, you get the opportunity to get the jitters out. I think you really saw that in the first half. Everybody wants to make the play. We understand that if we get the ball, we’re strong with the ball, we run as a team and do our strengths, we can be pretty good. And the third quarter was a nice reflection of that.”
With the win, Kokomo (13-8) advances to play Marion in Friday night’s second semifinal at approximately 7:30 p.m. Jeff finished the season 3-19.
The Kats led 32-18 after the third quarter and eventually pushed the lead to 38-18 before enduring a frenetic final six minutes.
The Kats asserted themselves quickly after halftime. Brayana Fowler snagged a steal and turned it into a layup on the opening possession, then Bri Poe hit a triple from the left elbow off a nice kickout from post forward Anastacia Kirby to spark a 10-0 start to the frame. Jeff didn’t respond until a driving hoop by Aliyia Kind with 3:35 left made the score 26-15 Kats. Poe had seven points in the quarter, and inside, Kirby snagged three rebounds and had a block in that quarter. Kokomo’s surge continued for the first couple minutes of the fourth quarter where a jumper from Fowler, and a jumper and two free throws by Alanis Jones gave the Kats the 20-point bulge.
“I thought that third quarter let us down,” Jeff coach Geoff Salmon said. “If you’ve followed us this year, we’ve typically had a quarter like that where we scored four or five points, kind of let things get out of hand. I give a lot of credit to their kids. I thought their traps were a lot more aggressive after halftime. I thought that when we broke the trap, their rotations were a lot cleaner. They got to their [defensive] spots quicker and some things that were available to us in the first half weren’t there in the second. We didn’t do a good job of recognizing their openings.”
Guard Jasmine Love led the Wildkats with 13 points while Jones scored 11 and Poe and Fowler had eight each. Kirby had just four points and took only two shots from the field, but finished with a team-best eight rebounds and added three assists and two blocks.
“Defensively I thought Ana did a great job down low, and they are focused on [limiting her offense],” Snyder said. “In sectional play, you can’t just go to your first option and expect it to be there. All these teams know each other. We’ve played each other during the season, we’ve scouted each other, so the second and third options, running the offense is something we’ve got to continue to work on because that’s where the points are going to come.”
Jeff shot just 21 percent from the field in the second half.
Snyder went to his bench early and often in the first quarter, and kept rotating people in and out. He said that Kokomo got “efforts from multiple players. Cierra Tinder comes in and in four minutes scores three points, causes havoc, plays great defense at a time when we really needed it, and I have a team full of players like that.
“I remember playing in tournament games and the adrenaline can zap you pretty quick,” he said. “When you hope to play three games in a week, you have to make sure that people are fresh.”
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