SMNW girls pull away late from West
The fans waited for the fourth quarter for the offense, but when it arrived, it arrived in bunches.
The Shawnee Mission Northwest girls earned the better of that offense in the last quarter and outscored the Shawnee Mission West Vikings 9-3 in the game’s final three minutes to claim a 48-40 Sunflower League victory Friday night at Cougar Gymnasium.
For 24 minutes, the game looked like it was going to be a grind-it-out, defensive affair with whoever had the ball last standing the best shot at winning.
After one quarter, West had pulled ahead by a slim 9-8 score. However, Northwest guard Katie Biggers opened up the second quarter with a pair of top-of-the-key 3-pointers to put SMNW up 14-9. West then went on a 6-0 run to reclaim the lead. The two teams swapped the lead two more times before senior guard Jessica Johnson put Northwest up for good with a layup with one minute remaining in the first half. Johnson’s bucket sent SMNW into halftime with an 18-17 lead.
Northwest again scored the first six points of the quarter in the third period and led 24-17 at the four-minute mark of the quarter. The Vikings pulled to within three at 24-21 before Biggers splashed another trey from the top of the key off a feed from Johnson. West responded with a basket at the buzzer and cut the SMNW lead to 27-23 entering the fourth quarter.
Several times the Vikings were able to pull within two of the Cougars and had made the score 39-37 with three minutes left. It was then that Northwest’s hustle began to make the difference. Cougar guard Sarah Schmidt came out of a scramble with the ball and found a wide-open Johnson for a 15-footer from the left side. Northwest junior guard Kristina Purinton then stole the ball in the Vikings’ backcourt, helping Northwest hold a 41-37 lead with 58 seconds to play and forcing West to foul down the stretch. The Cougars made seven of eight free throws in the final minute to salt away the victory.
Despite the offensive output in the game’s last eight minutes, it was the intense, defensive play of Purinton that earned Northwest head coach Jeff Dickson’s most effusive praise.
“Kristina played incredible,” Dickson said. “She is one of our best defensive players. She’s one of those kids you like to watch play because she brings so much intensity and heart. She wears it on her sleeve and that’s why we got her into the game, because she gives us a lift. She absolutely did that. She changed the course of the game with her defense and with her intensity and made it hard for them to get into their offense and get good shots. She kind of fired up our kids and our crowd. She was the player of the moment right there and that really sprung the game for us.”
Biggers led all Cougar scorers with 11 points while Johnson and Schmidt added 10 each. Eight of Schmidt’s 10 points came in the final quarter.
The Cougars are now 5-1 on the season.