Kickapoo and St. Joseph’s Academy are quite familiar with one another. In fact, 15 years ago Friday, Kickapoo defeated the Angels to finish the 2002-03 season undefeated. They met for the fourth time at State Friday, this time in the Class 5 semifinals.
The Lady Chiefs are the youngest team in the Final Four. They arrived on a 13-game win streak, but got out to a slow start.
They shot 22 percent first half, making 9 of 40 shots. KHS did grab 14 offensive rebounds before the break, and used a 13-3 run to take a 25-21 lead into halftime.
“A lot of games are decided in the playoffs with those runs,” head coach Jim Pendergrass said. “Tonight, that gave us confidence and momentum going into the half that we knew we could do it.”
The defensive effort carried into the second half. In all, Kickapoo forced 20 turnovers, several of which led to points in transition.
The Lady Chiefs’ youngest players made their presence felt in the fourth quarter. Chloe Merced, Maddie Barrett and Indya Green all scored timely buckets as Kickapoo built a double-digit lead.
Green crashed the glass all afternoon, grabbing 14 rebounds, earning a double-double with 12 points.
They may be young, but the Lady Chiefs will play for a state championship after earning a 58-44 win over St. Joe.
“When the buzzer sounded, we all got super excited, and it just brought back a lot of memories from two years ago,” Hannah Collins said. She and Jordan Wersinger are the only seniors on the roster. “We’re ready to go back to the championship,” Collins said.
“At the beginning of the season, this wasn’t even in my mind at all,” Wersinger said. “To be at this point, it’s super exciting. It’s a huge memory I’ll never forget, and I’m glad I get to do it with this group of girls.”
Kickapoo aims for its seventh state championship Saturday against Kirkwood, in a rematch of the 2016 final. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:40 pm.