Funny thing about those 9-0 runs: They’re more effective — not to mention decisive — when they come at the beginning of the fourth quarter rather than the first.
North Kansas City proved as much in Friday’s championship game of the 33rd annual Winnetonka Girls Basketball Varsity Invitational.
The Hornets pumped in the first nine points of the final frame against Smithville, riding that momentum to a 58-49 victory.
Northtown senior Aeries Washington and freshman Selena Salas combined to score 13 points in a 17-2 run that blew open a game tied at 33 after three quarters.
Washington, who finished with 24 points and six rebounds, gave the Hornets (4-0) room to breathe with a three-point play just 48 seconds into the fourth.
“We started playing as a team more, and we rotated the ball better. We just overcame adversity. That’s all we did,” Washington said.
Salas (15 points, four rebounds) essentially put the game away with a four-point play with 5:04 remaining.
That started the obligatory “SHE’S A FRESH-MAN!” chant from the Northtown student body.
“Selena is the smartest freshman I’ve ever coached. She comes in and acts like she’s been here 1,000 times,” NKC coach Jeff Lacy said.
It was a stark contrast to the first half, when the Hornets didn’t find any offensive rhythm until well into the second quarter.
“The atmosphere got to us a little bit, but once we started settling down, slowing the game down, we started getting good shots. At the end we had a couple players step up big time and put the ball in the hole,” Lacy said.
Smithville (2-1) was led by Paige Imhoff (21 points, seven rebounds) and Maddie Nelson (20 points).
The Warriors simply didn’t have an answer when Northtown stomped on the gas.
“They came out intense, and they were just attacking. They went from third to fourth (gear) and got us in shock a little bit,” Smithville coach Trevor Mosby said. “And bad job by me not calling a timeout sooner. I thought we might be able to fight through it and I could use those timeouts down the stretch.”
The season is still young for both teams. Smithville will get an immediate boost on Monday, when it returns three of its top six players (one from injury, two who were playing soccer in North Carolina).
Northtown knows it can be better than what it showed on Friday, and it’s much more than the prolific Washington, who is averaging 25 points per game thus far.
“Aeries, she’s a tough guard. She’s a tough stop,” Lacy said. “But the good thing is we’ve got a great team around her.”