Traditional wisdom says teams should not be able to lose their two star players, in the most important moment of the season, and thrive.
Traditional wisdom does not apply to the South girls.
Playing without All-State center Kendrian Elliott for most of the game and All-State point guard Ericka Mattingly for a big chunk of the first half because of foul trouble, South’s role players took the spotlight in a 62-48 win over Shawnee Mission West in the Class 6A quarterfinals at Koch Arena.
The win improved South’s record to 23-0 as it attempts to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive 6A title, and first with an undefeated record. South will play Olathe East in the semifinals on Friday.
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“We can play better, but we got past that game and it was a great opportunity to get to play in this environment in the state tournament,” South coach Antwain Scales said. “It’s tough when you’re the team to beat, and I’m proud of the ladies for being able to step up and get the job done.”
No one had a bigger role in South’s win than sophomore guard Kyla Callins, who scored 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Another sophomore, Trezure Jobe, added 14 points.
Mattingly had 10 points, four assists and four steals in 26 minutes after picking up her second foul with 5:07 left in the second quarter. Elliott had 11 points in 10 minutes.
“I think Kyla, usually around this stretch and the state tournament, steps up big,” Scales said. “Especially down the stretch, and especially with the foul trouble we had. Being able to come back and weather that storm, we went on a great run and they capitalized on the things they do best.”
After a technical and a blocking foul on Callins led to three free throws and cut South’s lead to 34-27, the Titans started to separate. Six straight points by Elliott meant SM West was never able to cut the lead to single digits again.
“I think we need to play better defense, knock down more free throws,” Callins said. “And rebounds ... that’s probably the most important.”
Callins’ helped seal the win by hitting 4 of 4 free throws down the stretch in unique fashion, positioning herself to the far right on the free-throw line. South made 22 of 33.
“I started doing it about a month ago,” Callins said, laughing. “It’s just what works for me, I guess. I even tried it from the left, and the middle again but they weren’t going in ... people make fun of me, but they go in just the same.”
Olathe East 51, Derby 39 — Derby’s turnaround season came to an end thanks to a hot-shooting Olathe East team.
Olathe East (18-5) hit 8 of 16 shots in the second half, including 4 of 5 three-pointers. Derby (19-4) led 19-18 at halftime and made 7 of 24 shots in the second half and 3 of 16 three-pointers for the game.
“(Olathe East) really started hitting down the stretch,” Derby coach Jodie Karsak said. “It seemed like every time I looked up, the ball was dropping through the bottom of their net.”
Sydney Wilson led Olathe East with 17 points, while Katie Gleason added 14 points. Derby got a big game from 6-5 freshman center Kennedy Brown, who scored 10 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked six shots, while Kenzi Young added 10 points.
Derby won 15 games total in Karsak’s first two seasons.
“When I got here three years ago, I told the girls that are seniors now that we were going to go to state,” Karsak said. “There eyes got really big and I think they thought I was crazy, but I knew what we had coming up the pipeline from the middle school, and I knew if they bought in we could do it. They did the hard work that got us here and I’m really proud of them for that.”