BY TAYLOR ELDRIDGE
If you haven’t already, please check out my story that was in Sunday’s Wichita Eagle covering the Kapaun Mount Carmel girls basketball team winning a state title. It was one of my favorite stories to write, for so many reasons. Be sure to check out that story to find out more, and feel free to check out my stories after Kapaun won in the quarterfinals and then in the semifinals.
But the reason I’m writing this blog post is to explain how exactly Kapaun won the state title game over Blue Valley. I know I told you the story behind the game in my article, but here’s my chance to explain to you how Kapaun won the actual game. I hope this gives a good breakdown for those Kapaun fans that weren’t able to make it to Topeka on Saturday, or just anybody that is curious and wants to re-live the game. I feel like it’s a pretty good guide for any Kapaun fan.
Click the jump to find out how the Kapaun girls became your 2012 Class 5A champions!
#1 Blue Valley (21-3) vs. #3 Kapaun (20-4)
Both of these teams entered on long winning streaks — Blue Valley had won its last 12 games, while Kapaun had won its final 11. Clearly, these two teams proved they were the best teams in Class 5A. Both of these teams relied on stingy defenses (Blue Valley held 17 opponents under 40 points; Kapaun 16) with Kapaun having a bit more of an offensive kick (Kapaun 53.3 PPG, Blue Valley 45.7). Blue Valley probably wanted to play a game in the 40s, while Kapaun wouldn’t mind that – it had to figure the higher-scoring the better. Experience-wise, Blue Valley played in this same title game a season ago and was playing with the heartache suffered last year in losing to Aquinas. Thursday and Friday were the first two state tournament games all of these Kapaun players had played in their lives. Even though Blue Valley’s offense struggled in the first two days at state, you had to figure the Tigers were the odds-on favorites to win the Class 5A title.
FIRST QUARTER (Kapaun wins 11-4)
Each team scored on its opening possession, then the rest of the quarter would be a struggle. Blue Valley came out in what turned out to be a typical slow start in Topeka. The Tigers were 2 of 10 shooting and turned the ball over 3 times. While Kapaun wasn’t terribly efficient, it was at least average — and that was enough to open up a 11-4 lead. Kapaun senior Courtney Gahagan entered the tournament averaging 3.8 points a game. After the first quarter, she had 5. That may not seem like a lot, but the lift she provided the Crusaders early was invaluable.
SECOND QUARTER (Kapaun wins 8-7)
Kapaun had a real opportunity to distance itself from Blue Valley at the start of this game. The Tigers missed 11 of 13 shots to begin the game and at one point went 12 possessions producing only two points, yet Kapaun couldn’t build on its 11-4 lead. Gahagan hit a big three-pointer for a 14-7 lead, then Blue Valley looked like it was going to salvage the half when it scored on back-to-back trips down to cut the lead to 14-11 with 1:52 left. But Kapaun scored on its final three possessions of the half, which turned out to be a turning point in the game. Blue Valley went from being down by 3 points to an 19-11 deficit after giving up two offensive rebounds that let Kapaun score on put-backs. Despite a terrible offensive start, Blue Valley missed its chance to remain within arm’s length of Kapaun. The Crusaders did an excellent job of making other Tigers step up and beat them and not their Big 3 of Taylor Leathers, Bailey Geiman and Mackenzie Johnson, who combined for 2-9 shooting for 4 points and 4 turnovers in the first half. Below you can see the statistical breakdown of the first half.
THIRD QUARTER (Kapaun wins 12-11)
Both teams enjoyed successful third quarters, but that didn’t help Blue Valley make up any ground. The longest run Blue Valley made through the first three quarters was 4-0. That’s not going to win many games. Every time the Tigers scored, Kapaun had an answer. Kapaun senior Arisa Shaw drained a big 3-pointer at the start of the quarter for the game’s first double-digit margin, 23-13, and the lead would grow to as many as 12. Leathers, Geiman and Johnson are now a combined 4 for 17 with only 7 points. They entered averaging a combined 33. Gahagan once again was key this quarter attacking the basket and drawing a help defender in the lane. She had the awareness to drop a pass off to her post, Sydney Kuhn, whose defender came over to help, two straight times help Kapaun maintain a comfortable lead entering the final 8 minutes.
FOURTH QUARTER (Blue Valley wins 22-20)
Blue Valley would need a good start to immediately get back into the game. It didn’t have one. The Tigers came up empty on their first four possessions, but they did make things interesting when they scored three straight times to cut Kapaun’s lead to 34-28 with 4:08 remaining. But then the Crusaders would put the game on ice by going on a 7-0 run to take a 41-28 lead with 2:42 left. Blue Valley would come up empty four straight possessions that featured seven missed shots and a turnover during that span. Meanwhile, the quarter was turned into a free throw shooting competition for Kapaun. The Crusaders only attempted two shots in the final quarters and an incredible 29 free throws. Kapaun actually struggled a bit (Gahagan was 4-9, Kuhn 0-2, Andersen 2-4) but freshman Sam Bachrodt came through by hitting 12 of 14 free throws in the quarter to ice the game for the Crusaders. Blue Valley did cut Kapaun’s lead to 49-44 late, and even had a chance to make it a 1-possession game but dribbled off over 20 seconds and didn’t attempt a shot until 13 seconds left, which virtually sealed the victory for Kapaun. The 51 points was the most anyone has scored this season on Blue Valley outside of Wichita Heights, while Kapaun held its 19th opponent of the season under 45 points (18-1 in such games). When scoring at least 50 points this season, Kapaun never lost a game – winning all 14 occasions. Below you can see the statistical breakdown from the second half and the total game stats below that.
3 REASONS WHY KAPAUN WON
1. Shutting Down The Big 3. Kapaun successfully limited Blue Valley’s 3 main offensive threats (Taylor Leathers, Bailey Geiman & Mackenzie Johnson). The trio entered averaging a combined 33 points, but were a combined 6 for 28 (21%) with only 13 points when the outcome had already been decided (when KMC took a 41-28 lead). The Tigers had a miserable offensive showing for the first 29 minutes, where they only produced 28 points on 46 possessions featuring 11 for 44 shooting (25%).
2. Gahagan’s Good Start. A good start is so vital in the state tournament and senior Courtney Gahagan appeared determined to give Kapaun one. Known exclusively for her harassing defense, Gahagan channeled that aggression into her offensive game and was the best player on the floor in the first quarter – and probably the rest of the game. She scored 8 of Kapaun’s first 14 points, including a rare 3-pointer, and finished with 13 points. She came in not even averaging 4 points a game. Not only did she give Kapaun a ball-hawking defender, but also the unlikely spark on offense it needed.
3. Freshman Comes Up Clutch. Everyone knew freshman Samantha Bachrodt was good, but how would she respond to the pressure of a state championship game? She actually struggled for the first three quarters (2-8 FG, 0-2 FT, 4 points), but when Kapaun needed her most she delivered. Outside of her, the Crusaders were 6 of 15 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Luckily, Bachrodt had ice in her veins and made 12 of her 14 attempts in the final 4 minutes. She played all 32 minutes and came through in the clutch for Kapaun.
Congratulations to your 2012 Class 5A state champions: the Kapaun Mount Carmel girls. As a final wrap-up, I thought it would be nice to list all 12 on the final Kapaun roster and list their “shining moment” in the title game.
Senior Katie Andersen. The leader that brought everything together for the Crusaders this season, Andersen scored 6 points in the title game, including the final 2 points this season.
Senior Courtney Gahagan. Entered averaging 3.8 points a game and scored 13 in the most important game of the season, all while maintaining her ferocious defense and giving Kapaun the good start it needed to win.
Senior Arisa Shaw. Came off the bench to drain a gigantic 3-pointer in the second quarter that gave Kapaun its first double-digit lead 23-13 that it would protect the rest of the game.
Junior Blake Bullock. Came up with two critical rebounds in the second quarter, the second being an offensive rebound that she kicked out to Gahagan for a big 3-pointer.
Junior Hannah Lienhard. Helped continue Kapaun’s surge at the end of the first half when she came off the bench, grabbed an offensive rebound and made a free throw to give KMC a 19-11 lead.
Junior Molly McAuliffe. Started all season and was a glue component to the Crusaders, McAuliffe made Kapaun’s only field goal in the fourth quarter.
Junior Mary O’Conner. Didn’t play, but remained vocal on the bench and helped prepare the starters for game situations in practice.
Sophomore Sydney Kuhn. Kapaun’s most important defender, as she guarded the rim, Kuhn was once again solid in the title game, finishing with 8 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Sophomore Lindsey Medina. Didn’t play, but provided depth off the bench this season when the starting guards were in foul trouble.
Sophomore Georgia Schaefer. Didn’t play, but gained valuable experience along the trip and remained vocal on the bench to help the Crusaders.
Freshman Samantha Bachrodt. Arguably the Crusaders’ best player down the stretch, hit 12 fourth-quarter free throws in the state title game and averaged 14 points and nearly 8 rebounds a game in her first state tournament.
Freshman Grace Hagan. Valuable sixth man for Kapaun, Hagan gained valuable experience this season and came up with two rebounds and an assist off the bench in the title game.