Kapaun’s girls basketball team answered coach Billy Graf’s rhetorical question more emphatically than any spoken affirmative ever could.
The Crusaders survived Wednesday’s Class 5A sub-state semifinal against Goddard, 31-30 despite bouts with poor shooting and ineffective rebounding. They captured, however, one crucial element to earning upset postseason wins on the road.
“I always ask them if they’re tough – I always say, ‘You don’t seem very tough to me,’ ” Graf said. “This was tough. There’s no other way around it – 31-30 on the road against a talented team that takes care of the basketball. To pull one out, it’s good.”
Kapaun (12-9) meets Maize on Friday with a 5A tournament berth on the line.
Kapaun had just enough offense to win and Goddard (16-5) had just enough to create tension down the stretch. Kapaun led by seven late in the third quarter but a four-point fourth gave Goddard a chance.
Goddard took a 30-29 lead in the final 90 seconds before Brenna Monty’s basket with 1:03 to go gave Kapaun the lead for good and continued the Crusaders’ trend of finding scoring in the most adverse situations.
A 9-0 Kapaun run in the second quarter immediately followed a technical foul on the Crusaders. They scored eight straight in the third quarter after Goddard notched nine points in a row to take a 20-19 lead.
“When I watch games on TV, I know there’s runs,” Graf said. “When I’m coaching, I don’t notice. I don’t notice we’ve hit three in a row, I just don’t. I’m getting the girls to buy into every possession is war, every possession is a battle. If this game doesn’t teach them, I don’t know what could teach them.”
As Kapaun protected a one-point third quarter lead, Goddard coach Kevin Hackerott called timeout and emphasized the importance of the game.
“If we lose, we’re done,” Hackerott pleaded.
Kapaun scored the next six points but Goddard matched Hackerott’s energy eventually, locking down the Crusaders in the fourth quarter, taking a late lead and earning several chances to escape with victory.
Goddard missed a three-pointer and a putback on the same possession with about 20 seconds to play. It was maddening for both coaches – Hackerott for the missed opportunity and Graf because Goddard controlled the offensive rebounds for most of the game.
After a Kapaun missed free throw and timeout, Goddard had the ball inside halfcourt. The Lions got an open shot from the inbound pass, but it glanced off the backboard and fell away.
Goddard missed 17 of 20 shots in the first half and 14 of its first 16 three-point attempts and never broke through offensively despite coming close.
“It’s hard to stay disciplined defensively because they’re so disciplined offensively,” Graf said. “They’re not just going to throw us the ball. They’re going to make you guard for 30, 45 seconds. Getting the girls to stay locked in during that entire possession, I think that they saw it. I think they understand it.”
Kapaun: Mayberry 7, Short 3, Hastings 4, Monty 11, Roulston 6.
Goddard: Smith 8, Cortese 5, Vang 9, Hackerott 6, Koger 2.