*This story was featured in the Jan. 20th edition of the Hastings Tribune.
KENESAW — After a 57-31-blowout loss at the hands of Elm Creek on Jan. 16 Kenesaw came into tonight facing a team in Loomis who was on a four-game winning streak in a game that Kenesaw felt it needed to win. They did exactly that on Tuesday night, holding on to win 52-49.
“We really needed it. The last three games we didn’t play well offensively, so it was nice in the first half to score some points again,” Kenesaw Head Coach Jace Morgan said. “It was huge that we came out and got this win tonight to get us on the right track.”
The Blue Devils came out in-tune offensively and jumped out to an early 9-0 lead to start the game, thanks to two first quarter three pointers from Junior Kendra Nunn. Kenesaw Senior Brielle Schneider scored five of her 13 points in the first and the Blue Devils took a 20-11 lead into the second quarter.
The Wolves received a spark from Senior Colette Thorell, who went 3-3 from three-point range and scored nine of her 14 points in the second quarter. Kenesaw Freshman Haley Schukei scored five points in the second quarter and finished with a game-high 17 points and eight rebounds.
It was Schukei’s play on both the offensive and defensive ends that Morgan felt sparked his team from start to finish.
“She plays great defense, she’s always in passing lanes, she gets lots of steals and that was huge for her on the defensive end,” he said. “When Hailey gets us going like that to start a game and gets some layups made, everybody’s confidence goes up and everybody plays better.”
After solid offensive outputs from both teams in the first half, it was the defenses that were the story of the second half.
Loomis disrupted Kenesaw’s ability to score after halftime and allowed just nine points in the third quarter. Junior Brooke Rademacher went 4 of 6 from the field and scored eight of her fourteen in the third quarter. That offensive spark, coupled with the Wolves’ ability to force five third quarter turnovers, trimmed the Kenesaw lead to five entering the fourth quarter.
After trading baskets early in the fourth, Kenesaw led by just three with 4:04 left. Schukei once again carried the load for the Blue Devils, scoring back-to-back baskets to put Kenesaw up 51-44.
Schneider made two free throws to put the Blue Devils up six with less than two minutes remaining. Both teams then traded turnovers, before Thorell made a three-pointer to make it a three-point game.
Kenesaw committed a turnover after a timeout and Loomis had a chance with less than thirty seconds remaining. Loomis called a timeout with 10.7 seconds, but committed yet another turnover after the timeout and Kenesaw held on to win.
Despite the ugly finish, Morgan was pleased that his team did indeed finish.
“It wasn’t a pretty finish, but we did what we needed to get to win there,” he said. “Like I told the girls, ‘it wasn’t a pretty finish, but at least we finished it.’”