SMNW girls advance to Truman Tournament final
SM Northwest girls basketball built 13-point leads in each half Friday against Lee’s Summit North, then held off a furious Bronco rally in the fourth quarter to win 40-33 in the semifinals of the Truman Tournament in Independence, Missouri.
Each half saw a dominant Cougar scorer dictate the pace of play, with senior guard Katie Biggers controlling the first and sophomore guard McKayla Ross creating her own shots in the second 16 minutes.
Despite a big night from Lee’s Summit North sophomore Imani Johnson, the Cougars were able to use precision passing in the game’s final four minutes to wear down the Broncos.
“We really just wanted to settle the pace down and make sure we were focused in on what we wanted to do and play our game,” Biggers said. “I think we really came together and played more unified, made sure we passed to the right person and make sure our passes were crisp and everything. We knew that they were getting worn out from our passing and cutting and we could see that at the end of the game when were kind of chipper and they were kind of dragging.”
The Cougars were strong both offensively and defensively out of the gate. After falling behind 3-0 in the game’s opening minute, the Northwest ladies dominated the first quarter, ending it on a 14-2 tear. Biggers contributed eight points to the run, including a pair of threes. Her second trey came after Ross saved the ball from going out of bounds and dished a mid-air pass to the left corner, where Biggers calmly drained the three, making the score 12-5 Northwest. A pair of free throws from senior Cougar guard Jessica Johnson gave Northwest a 14-5 edge going into the second quarter.
The Broncos opened the second quarter with a layup, but Northwest responded with a 6-0 run that included another Biggers’ three. When freshman post Tracy Monahan scored on a putback of an offensive rebound with just under five minutes left in the half, Northwest had built up a 13-point edge at 20-7. However, Lee’s Summit North ended the half with an 8-2 run of their own and the Cougars halftime lead was down to seven at 22-15.
The third quarter — at least offensively — was all McKayla Ross for the Cougars. She scored all seven of Northwest’s points in the frame. Whereas, the Cougars had worked the ball around for the best shot through most of the first half, the third quarter saw most of the offensive success come from Ross’s own driving and the ability to create her own shot. After Ross connected on the back half of a pair of free throws with 2:41 left, the Cougars once again had their biggest edge of the game at 13 with the score 29-16.
The Broncos ended the period with back-to-back baskets from Johnson, but the Cougars still held a nine-point edge going into the fourth quarter at 29-20.
Freshman forward Sydney Thompson extended that lead to 11 with the opening basket of the final period, but Lee’s Summit North under a steady diet of feeding Johnson in the post scored the next seven points and drew to within four at 31-27 with 4:05 left to play.
Yet the Cougar offense was undaunted. Using precision passing along with cuts to the basket and motion weaving through the Bronco defense, Northwest forced Lee’s Summit North out of a packed in defense and forced the Broncos to come out and guard them. When they did so, the Cougars were able to drive to the basket and get fouled. The Cougars went to the line 13 times in the game’s final 3:44, hitting seven of them to cement a 40-33 victory and a berth in Saturday’s championship game.
“We just needed to stay calm under pressure,” Northwest coach Jeff Dickson said. “We were controlling the tempo. I think we had them rattled a little bit. While they made a few plays, I think our girls stayed calm and we got stops when we needed stops.”
Ross led all Cougar scorers with 15 points to go along with two rebounds and two assists, while Biggers recorded 13 points and was one rebound away from a double-double with nine boards. Johnson, one of the smallest players on either team, collected six points and seven rebounds.
The win improved SM Northwest’s record to 8-2 and places them in the 3 p.m. championship game against the winner of the Truman-Raytown semifinal.