TOPEKA, Kan. – How upset was Hannah Alexander by the defensive effort her No. 1-ranked Topeka High team turned in at the start of Friday’s Centennial League showdown with No. 3 Washburn Rural?
“I could have burned all five of my timeouts in the first quarter,” she admitted.
Alexander’s frustration with the Trojans’ defense early turned to exultation late as High’s defense not only got the Trojans back in the game after a 15-point first-half deficit, but ultimately won them the game.
NiJaree Canady’s tip and steal of an inbounds pass in the final seconds led to Faith Shields’ game-tying 3-pointer with two seconds left to force overtime. High then dominated the extra period, shutting out the Junior Blues in OT to escape with a 59-53 win and keep the state’s longest current winning streak going.
“Usually defense is our game, that’s what we’re known for,” Canady said. “Our press especially. Getting down early, that just doesn’t happen. But we came back when we needed it.”
In improving to 16-0 overall and 13-0 in league play, High extended its winning streak to 39 straight games and all but wrapped up the league title. The Trojans hold a two-game lead on Rural, which fell to 13-2 overall and 10-2 in league play.
Rural was in tremendous position to even the score with the Trojans after seeing a late lead slip away in a 53-49 loss in their first meeting in January. This time around, the Junior Blues led virtually the entire way and were up six after Emma Krueger hit a pair of free throws with 40 seconds left.
The lead was still six with 25 seconds later to go before Tae Thomas buried a big 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut High’s deficit in half with 13 seconds to go. After a High timeout, Canady tipped Zoe Canfield’s inbounds pass and snagged the ball, firing it to Lilly Smith at the top of the key.
Smith’s 3-pointer was off the mark but Canady was there for the rebound — the biggest of a whopping 22 she grabbed on the night. Knowing a putback wouldn’t be enough she spotted Shields, a sophomore reserve, on the wing and fired her the ball.
Shields didn’t hesitate, swishing home a 3-pointer with two seconds left to send High’s bench into a frenzy and the game into overtime.
“When we needed her she came through,” Canady said of Shields’ lone basket in three shot attempts. “Right off the bench, she wasn’t even warm at all. But she knocked it down. I had all the confidence in the world.”
In overtime, Rural’s Brooklyn DeLeye took the opening possession to the basket, but Canady blocked her shot and then scored at the other end, putting High up for good. The defense then produced three straight turnovers, the first forcing Rural to foul Smith, who hit two free throws, and the second leading to a Smith layup with 30 seconds left that sealed the win.
The Junior Blues didn’t get another shot off until DeLeye’s last-second look.
“This game’s on me as a coach,” Rural coach Kevin Bordewick said. “I thought we gave great effort. We needed to take care of the ball a little better, maintain our composure a little better. … It’s my fault as a coach because I haven’t coached them well enough in practice to handle those late-game situations.”
Rural handled the early-game situation about as well as Bordewick could ever recall one of his teams doing when it came to breaking and attacking High’s vaunted full-court press. The Junior Blues repeatedly made the right pass or play and got point-blank baskets, with Jada Ingram getting off to a sizzling start.
The freshman hit all five of her shots in the quarter as Rural answered an opening basket from Canady with 14 straight points and led 16-4 at the end of the first period.
Needless to say, Alexander was almost at her wit’s end at the end of the period.
“I’ll give it to them (Rural), that’s a heck of a team,” Alexander said. “We weren’t moving our feet, we weren’t talking and all we wanted to do was go down and score and we can’t do that. You know you’re playing one of the best teams in the state of Kansas, you’ve got to defend.”
That message finally got across and after falling down 28-13 when Canfield buried a 3-pointer for Rural at the 3:38 mark of the second quarter, High roared to life. The Trojans closed the half on an 11-2 run capped by a Kiki Smith 3-pointer to pull within 30-24 at halftime.
After Rural stretched the lead back to 10 in the third quarter, High again finished strong. Ja’Neysha Hendricks scored five points in a 7-0 run to close the third period that got High within three, 41-38.
Rural looked like it had landed the finishing blow when a 3-pointer by Canfield, basket by Krueger and free throw from Ingram restored a seven-point lead, but Hendricks buried a big 3-pointer and Thomas followed with a layup to cut the deficit to two.
Canfield and Krueger combined to hit 4 of 6 free throws around a missed 3-pointer from Hendricks to put Rural back up six with 40 seconds left, but the Junior Blues couldn’t finish the Trojans off.
“It was definitely a gut-check moment for us,” Alexander said. “I hope we learn from this. I thought we were going to have to take an ‘L’ and move on. I told them I know it’s going to say a win in the paper and things like that, but you guys deserved to lose that. …
“But I’d bet on them any day, any time. When you count them out and think they’re done, they’ll show you they’re not. That’s just their grittiness and toughness and the fight they have in them.”
Canady had a monster game, finishing with 19 points and 22 rebounds. At one point in the first half, she had scored 13 of High’s 15 points before her teammates finally got things going.
Hendricks scored a season-high 10 points, hitting two big threes in the second half. Four other Trojans had at least five points, though second-leading scorer Kiki Smith was held to just five points on 2-of-11 shooting.
DeLeye led Rural with 15 points, but had just two in the second half. Ingram added 14 on 6-of-7 shooting, while Krueger had 11 and Canfield 10.
RURAL BOYS 67, HIGH 48
Jack Hutchinson wasn’t about to bemoan the fact that Rural teammate Joe Berry banked home his last shot of the night, a 3-pointer, to take away team-high scoring honors from him Friday night.
“He was open, so he’s allowed to shoot it,” Hutchinson said. “It was on line.”
Nor was he going to grouse that his final 3-point attempt rattled in and out, not only costing him team-high scoring honors, but also a perfect night from the field after he hit his first eight shots of the game — seven of those 3-pointers.
“It felt good,” he said. “But it’s whatever.”
There was no need to complain after Rural easily picked up a much-needed bounce-back win after Tuesday’s disappointing loss at Seaman. With Hutchinson (23 points) and Berry (24 points) combining to go 18 of 21 from the field and the Junior Blues hitting 11 of 16 3-pointers overall, Rural built a 31-point lead through three quarters.
Rural made 25 of 43 shots overall and 7 of 10 3-pointers in the first half alone, bolting to a 38-15 halftime lead. Hutchinson then made two straight 3-pointers to end the third quarter for a 59-28 Rural lead, giving the Junior Blues a big shot of momentum going into Monday’s showdown with league-leading Topeka West.
“We needed this before T-West for sure,” said Hutchinson, who was 8 of 9 overall and 7 of 8 from 3-point range. “Tuesday was tough, but we made a statement today.”
High got 29 points from Jalen Smith, 14 of those coming in the fourth quarter.
TOPEKA HIGH GIRLS 59, WASHBURN RURAL 53 OT
Topeka High (16-0, 13-0) — L. Smith 3-11 2-2 9, Thomas 3-10 0-0 7, K. Smith 2-11 0-0 5, Hendricks 4-10 0-0 10, Canady 8-17 3-7 19, Lyons 3-3 0-0 6, A. Caryl 0-0 0-0 0, Shields 1-3 0-0 3, Wiley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-65 5-9 59.
Washburn Rural (13-2, 10-2) — Bagshaw 0-1 0-0 0, Lutz 1-5 0-2 3, Krueger 4-10 3-5 11, Ingram 6-7 2-6 14, DeLeye 4-10 6-7 15, Canfield 3-5 2-4 10, Hurtig 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-38 13-24 53.
3-point goals — High 6-23 (Hendricks 2-5, Thomas 1-4, K. Smith 1-3, Shields 1-3, L. Smith 1-7, Canady 0-1); Rural 4-11 (Canfield 2-4, DeLeye 1-2, Lutz 1-3, Bagshaw 0-1, Krueger 0-1). Total fouls — High 22, Rural 14. Fouled out — High: Lyons.
WASHBURN RURAL BOYS 67, TOPEKA HIGH 48
Topeka High (2-14, 2-11) — Smith 8-16 9-10 29, McMillon 1-1 0-0 3, Walker 0-2 0-0 0, Leesman 3-5 0-1 6, Canady 4-10 0-0 8, Phillips 1-1 0-0 2, Kincade 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-35 9-11 48.
Washburn Rural (10-5, 9-3) — Bachelor 1-3 0-0 2, Williams 1-4 2-2 5, Berry 10-12 3-4 24, Hutchinson 8-9 0-0 23, Patterson 1-4 0-0 2, Brady 1-5 1-2 3, Howard 1-2 0-0 2, Kidd 2-4 0-0 6, Morrow 0-0 0-0 0, Bunck 0-0 0-0 0, Wech 0-0 0-0 0, Conklin 0-0 0-0 0, Hanks 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-43 6-8 67.
3-point goals — High 5-12 (Smith 4-10, McMillon 1-1, Walker 0-1); Rural 11-16 (Hutchinson 7-8, Kidd 2-2, Berry 1-1, Williams 1-4, Bachelor 0-1). Total fouls — High 8, Rural 8. Fouled out — none.