What makes the Kapaun Mount Carmel and South girls basketball teams successful is also what makes the pair such great adversaries.
Kapaun, ranked No. 1 in Class 5A, plays the game with elegance and cohesion, knowing full well it possesses elite scorers Sam Bachrodt and Sydney Kuhn.
South, ranked No. 1 in Class 6A, is gritty to its core. If its smothering defense doesn’t exhaust you, then its discipline when it has the ball will.
And Saturday evening was just the latest classic produced by the two, this time with South prevailing 40-39 on its home court to pull even in the City League standings. For the second straight season, the season series was split.
“We needed redemption,” South sophomore Ericka Mattingly said. “We lost the last time and this one was at our house, so we had to get them back.”
This time around, South’s will won out and the Crusaders were forced to play in a physical, half-court game. Then again, South has a tendency of doing that to opponents.
“We changed,” Bachrodt said. “They’re the most physical team in the state, so we had to start pushing back. It changed our game and our mentality.”
While South had reliable scorers in Mattingly (14 points) and Eledria Franklin (6) on the perimeter along with Kirea Rogers (8) and Kendrian Elliott (12) in the post, Kapaun’s offense essentially was trimmed to only Bachrodt and Kuhn.
That allowed the Titans to enter into their stall tactics to begin the fourth quarter, equipped with a 30-22 lead. But Kapaun was prepared and made its rally, closing the gap to a single point on a three-pointer from Janay Jacobs with 2:48 remaining. It was the only points for Kapaun scored by someone other than Kuhn (22) or Bachrodt (14).
“We were just trying to buy some time,” South coach Antwain Scales said. “We knew they were going to have a run in them.”
“I just wish we would have started earlier,” Kapaun coach Marvin Estes stated as his lone regret.
South missed its opportunity to secure victory when Mattingly missed both free throws with a 40-37 lead and 15 seconds left.
But Kapaun waited too long in search of a three-pointer and instead had to settle for a Kuhn drive, as she was fouled with 2.6 seconds left.
After making the first, Kuhn tossed up a flat shot with the intent of missing and retrieving her own miss. But the line drive curled in, which left her 12 of 13 from the free-throw line but also left Kapaun one point short. South successfully dribbled out the remaining time.
And for the second straight season, a shared City League title between South and Kapaun, both 10-1 in league play, seems imminent.
As contrasting as these team’s styles are, the polar opposites still can’t find a way to split a part.
“It’s definitely become a rivalry,” Bachrodt said. “It’s just a perfect matchup. It’s always fun to play in a game like that because you know it’s always going to be a close game.”