PITTSBURG — PITTSBURG — The Pittsburg Lady Panthers used a “box-and-1” defense that tried to contain Kiowa guard Addy Clift and limit her scoring.
Clift eventually figured out how to beat that defense, and until she did, Miranda Stiles kept the Cowgirls offense firing.
Clift scored 29, Stiles scored 19 and hit four first-quarter 3-pointers, and the Cowgirls beat the Lady Panthers, 78-58, Tuesday at a packed Dee Foster Gymnasium in Pittsburg.
“She’s one of the best players in the state,” Pittsburg coach Wes Wood said of Clift.
“Miranda hitting four 3s in the first quarter, she came out hot, and that’s what we were hoping didn’t happen. We can’t guard them all.”
Kiowa outscored Pittsburg 15-7 in the second quarter and led by 15 at halftime. Stiles stole a Pittsburg pass and turned it into a fastbreak layup, and after Mikal Wainscott hit a layup for Pittsburg, Kiowa forward Tori Gillispie went to the foul line and sank her first free throw to make it 32-26 Cowgirls.
Gillispie missed her second free throw, Pittsburg rebounded it but Clift picked off a pass and got it to center Rylee Smith to finish a rather unusual 3-point play.
Smith finished with 14 points, Gillispie with 10. Pittsburg’s guards hung with Kiowa’s at times during the game, but the Lady Panthers had no answer for the Cowgirls’ two dominant post players.
“They just left a lot of room, a lot of space that we could take advantage of, move the ball really well,” Smith said. “There were a bunch of open spaces in their defense. High post area was wide open a lot of the time.”
Kiowa coach Wade Daniel added, “The post girls rebounded well. They began to step it up, and they’re seeing the difference that it make. Rylee and Tori just boarded great.”
Pittsburg lost a jump-ball to Kiowa following Smith’s layup, then Smith inbounded to Clift for a layup and a 36-26 lead. Pittsburg missed its next shot, the Cowgirls went on the fastbreak and Slawson found Clift for another layup and a 12-point lead.
Clift divided her scoring almost equally through all four quarters, scoring 6 in the first, 8 in the second, 7 in the third and 8 in the fourth.
“The two off-guards, they were wide open,” Clift said, referring to Slawson and Stiles. “So I could hit them, and then they started hitting all their shots. That kind of kept me rolling, and (coaches) eventually pulled me to the side and told me I could run off the screen and try to get around them.”
Kiowa led 44-29 at halftime. Though not an insurmountable deficit for a Pittsburg offense that knocked down six 3-pointers in the game, the Lady Panthers’ lack of numbers meant they began the second half much more tired than their opponents.
With just eight suited up Tuesday, the Lady Panthers couldn’t maintain their high-speed, high-energy style of play in the second half and never really challenged the Cowgirls’ lead.
“I thought (Pittsburg) just shot the ball tremendously in the first half, and we both looked kind of like November in the second half,” Daniel said.
Kiowa didn’t dominate the third or fourth quarter the way it did the second, but the Lady Panthers just couldn’t keep the Cowgirls from scoring inside. And with Stiles shooting so well, Pittsburg had to abandon the box-and-1 and try to cover both Clift and Stiles.
“I have to step up whenever they collapse on Addy,” Stiles said. “I have to step up and make the bigger shots, step up for the team. I opened up wide, they were collapsing on Addy, and it left me and Madi open for the 3.”
Pittsburg had the first possession of the game but missed a 3-pointer, and on the other end Slawson found Stiles for a 3-pointer and a 3-0 lead. Pittsburg played from behind the entire rest of the game, but solid 3-point shooting by the Lady Panthers helped keep the deficit to single digits throughout the first quarter.
The Lady Panthers got 3-pointers from Chandler Billingsley, Erin Cross, Leighah Carney, Alissa Maloy and Angela Meredith. Wainscott and Billingsley both scored 15 points for the Lady Panthers, and Cross scored 11.
“Kiowa is a state title contender in Class A, no question,” Wood said. “They’re good, and if we get just a little bit better here and there, we’re going to be pretty tough in Class B.”
With the win, Kiowa improved to 3-1. Pittsburg fell to 3-2.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.