Blue Valley North hung with Derby for a half in Wednesday night’s Class 6A tournament girls quarterfinal game, but once Panthers junior Tor’e Alford’s shot began to fall, the Mustangs were done.
Alford, held scoreless in the first half, scored 16 second-half points – including five three-pointers – and helped the Panthers cruise to a 60-44 victory.
“Those were huge shots for us,” coach Jodie Karsak said afterward. “I kind of felt like when she hit two or three of those, everybody was like, ‘All right, we’ve got this.’
“Once she hit a couple, then she has confidence every time it leaves her hand. She definitely has that confidence.”
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The 6-foot-6 Kennedy Brown displayed a perimeter touch as well, hitting 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.
“A lot of times the (other team’s) post player will go to the paint, because that’s their job is to go protect the rim first,” Karsak said. “She sees that right away, and she can knock that ‘3’ down.”
Alford’s three-pointers were part of 11 the Panthers hit in the game, starting with the first three falling – all from the right side – within 1:52 late in the third quarter.
“Personally, with me, I feel like I’ve got to knock down a couple, and then it’s automatic, like I’m shooting on the ‘gun’ at practice,” Alford said.
“The first one went down, so I was like ‘I’ve got a little momentum.’ (When) the second one went down, I was like ‘All right, I’m not going to the (left) side. I’m going to stay on this side, and if I’m open, I’m shooting.
“Once it’s on, it’s on. I feel like it’s not going to turn off. I could throw it up backwards, and it would go in.”
Brown credited her improved perimeter accuracy to working constantly on the three-point shot.
“I just wanted to become a more versatile player,” she said. “I wanted to stretch the floor, hit that ‘trail 3,’ whatever my team needs me to do.”
Play inside got pretty physical, but Brown said she’s used to that.
“I get lots of stuff thrown at me,” she said. “Coaches will try lots of different things. It’s always physical (in the paint).”
She said a Mustang dared her to shoot the ball from three-point range.
“I go, ‘OK, I will,’” she said. “If that’s what you want, I will.”
Brown said she expects an equally physical game Friday.
“I know (South coach) Antwain (Scales) will have something to throw at us,” she said. “I’ve just got to be ready, go out and play tough again.”
Myers scored eight of her total in the first half, when Derby’s lead was only a few points.
The victory sets up a rematch for Derby (21-1) in Friday’s semifinals against South (22-1) at 6:30 p.m. The Panthers handed South its only loss of the season. The Titans won their tournament opener with a 56-38 victory over Shawnee Mission Northwest.
“It’s going to be a great fight,” Karsak said of the semifinal matchup.
Blue Valley North boasted the Kuckelman twins, Chloe and Ellie, who played for the 6A title in girls tennis last fall. Ellie won that one, but Chloe outscored her sister Friday with a game-high 19 points. Ellie was the only other Mustang in double figures with 11.
Blue Valley North 6 9 18 11 – 44
Derby 12 7 23 18 – 60
BLUE VALLEY NORTH – C. Kuckelman 19, K. Cassaday 1, E. Kuckelman 11, L. Cassaday 2, Krueger 8, Keirn 3.
DERBY – Nilles 12, Myers 14, Alford 16, Brown 18.