By Matt Goisman
KIOWA — Between the Kiowa Cowgirls’ intimidating four-player trap defense and their plethora of knockdown shooters, the inexperienced Savanna Lady Bulldogs never looked comfortable in Friday’s game.
With a dominant first quarter, the Cowgirls put the game away early.
Kiowa got at least 20 points from guards Addy Clift and Madi Slawson, helping the Cowgirls beat the Lady Bulldogs 75-43 in Kiowa. Kiowa has now won seven games in a row, including all six played in 2014.
“We’re all just trying to make that push towards February,” Kiowa coach Wade Daniel said. “All we talk about is February, trying to make the state tournament.”
Kiowa, a Class A school, starts its postseason with Districts on Feb. 13. The state tournament runs March 6-8.
The Cowgirls opened the game with an 11-0 run, starting with Miranda Stiles finding Rylee Smith for a layup. Savanna missed its next two shots, then Clift got the ball to Slawson for a 3-pointer that made it 5-0 Cowgirls.
Savanna missed again, and Stiles later turned a steal into two free throws. Clift’s layup made it 9-0 Cowgirls, then Clift knocked down a jump shot before Destiny Raleigh’s free throw finally got Savanna on the board halfway through the first quarter.
That free throw proved to be Savanna’s only point in the first, however, and Clift responded with knocking down a 3-pointer. Stiles turned a steal into a layup, then Slawson knocked down another jump shot to make it 18-1 Cowgirls.
Tara Mabray’s steal led to a 3-pointer from Stiles, then Clift drained a layup to give the Cowgirls a 23-1 lead heading into the second quarter. Kiowa kept at least four possessions alive with offensive rebounds in the first quarter, while every Savanna possession ended after, at most, one shot.
“That’s a point of emphasis for us,” Daniel said. “We know we have to crash the boards, and we know Savanna is always traditionally good rebounders.”
While its offense continued to put up points, Kiowa’s diamond-shaped defense completely flustered Savanna’s ball-handlers. With four Cowgirls positioned around the three Lady Bulldogs in the backcourt, Kiowa challenged every inbounds pass, then sent the two closest Cowgirls to double-team whoever caught the ball.
Following Raleigh’s free throw, Savanna didn’t get its next 2 points until Jordin Wilson hit two free throws with 6:48 left in the second. Savanna’s first basket didn’t come until Payton Little drained a layup with 6:30 left in the second.
“That’s our regular press, and we use it all the time,” Mabray said of her team’s defense. “The trapping on the sides, and we just all run to cover our spots, and that’s what gets us up and down the floor.”
Having returned from an ankle injury last week, Mabray said she’s gotten stronger with each game. Though she didn’t score any points Friday, Mabray played tough defense and handled the ball well, assisting on back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter that pushed the lead to 39-5.
Those 3-pointers came in a 12-0 Cowgirls run, with Stiles and Slawson each knocking down two from beyond the arch.
Savanna started to find its rhythm late in the second, scoring 10 in the final minutes before halftime. Wilson knocked down two free throws, then hit a 3-pointer to cut Kiowa’s lead to 45-12.
But every time Savanna seemed like it might go on a run, Clift knocked down another basket to push the game a little farther out of reach. After Wilson’s 3-pointer from well behind the 3-point line, Clift hit one from equally far away to maintain the 36-point lead.
Raleigh’s layup later made it 48-14, but Clift took an inbounds pass behind the 3-point line and knocked it down. Clift scored 27 for Kiowa, Slawson scored 20 and Stiles scored 13.
“I noticed there was a second wave that they had coming at me,” Clift said. “I dished off a lot, and it really helped. I’m glad everyone was hitting really well.”
Kiowa went into halftime up 51-17, and Daniel began emptying his bench in the third quarter. By the fourth quarter the night was over for all his starters, allowing Savanna to outscore Kiowa 20-17 in the third and hold Kiowa to just 7 points in the fourth.
Wilson led the Lady Bulldogs with 19. Raleigh scored 7, and Little scored 6.
“We just don’t score in the first quarter, and then we kind of smooth out,” Savanna coach Dianne Inman said. “I think it’s just because of the youth. They’re scared to death, and finally they settled down.”
With the win, Kiowa improved to 13-3. Savanna fell to 3-6.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.