BOURBONNAIS — Kankakee’s girls basketball team celebrated some local history when it became the first girls basketball team to win a game at the Thanksgiving Classic at Olivet Nazarene University on Tuesday, and in Friday’s contest against Bradley-Bourbonnais, the Kays made history again, both as a team and individually.
Senior guard Ambranette Storr, the tournament’s MVP, reached the 2,000-career-points mark early on in a 75-60 Kankakee win that gave the Kays the 2019-20 All-Cty championship, as well as the inaugural girls Thanksgiving Classic championship.
The very first ever girls Thanksgiving Classic champions. pic.twitter.com/tSxFz7J4UB— Mason Schweizer (@MSchweizerTDJS) November 30, 2019
Kays coach John Maniatis has won scores of tournaments and championships during his quarter-century career, but he said he never forgets moments such as the one his team celebrated at McHie Arena on Friday night.
“Each and every time a player, a team, a program, a championship, each one is special,” Maniatis said. “You don’t take any of those for granted because it takes a lot of hard work from the trainers, the coaches, the players, managers, all of those people put in the time.
“This didn’t start two weeks ago, this started June 1. … This is just an example of that.”
The first points tonight are an and-one from Ambrwnette Storr, who hit 2,000 career points in the process. pic.twitter.com/o2Yhaqlum7— Mason Schweizer (@MSchweizerTDJS) November 30, 2019
Storr entered Friday’s contest with 1,997 career points and wasted no time hitting 2,000, as a layup and a foul in the game’s opening moments put her past the mark as she scored the first 11 points of the game for either side and gave her team an early 11-0 advantage.
The all-state senior, who transferred to Kankakee from Rockford Lutheran before the start of the 2018-19 school year, said she owed her accomplishment to a lot of people.
“All my teammates that I ever played with, they trusted me enough to get me the ball and they know my abilities,” Storr said. “All the teams I’ve been on, including Rockford Lutheran, they all know that I’m primarily a scorer and I’ve never been on a selfish team.”
“Sophomore year, I got 1,000 [points], but going into high school, I never would have thought I’d have that many points at all.”
The Kays rode a 34-23 lead to halftime but were never quite able to put away a Boilers team that was able to navigate Kankakee’s chaotic defense and find open shooters on the other side of it, as four different players hit at least one 3-pointer, Evey Evans and Faith Davis even sinking four apiece.
“When we have a couple other kids make shots, it makes it hard for teams to lock in on one person,” Boilers coach Evan Tingley said. “We had four different kids hit 3’s, which is what we want. Ultimately, it came down to the glass, and we didn’t win the battle on that glass.”
The Kays won that rebounding battle 42-28 and saw Imani Williams (15) and Avery Jackson (11) reach double-digits in the rebounding department, Jackson doing so despite being one of the smallest players on the court at 5-foot-5.
“It’s just instinct as soon as it goes up,” Jackson said. “Coach told us that today was going to be a boards game. ... I knew to help my team out; I had to get up there and fought with it and try my best.”
Storr scored a game-high 31 points and notched a double-double with 10 steals to go along with four rebounds and three assists. Jackson had 21 points, 11 rebounds and six steals. Williams saw her teammates’ double-doubles and raised her game to a triple-double with 13 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists, eight steals and three blocks.
Evans led the Boilers with 21 points, 12 rebounds, an assisst and two steals. Davis had 16 points, four rebounds and a steal. Gaetana Davis had nine points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Our all-tournament team and MVP. Surprise, Storr is your tournament MVP. pic.twitter.com/mQ7QwDtJou— Mason Schweizer (@MSchweizerTDJS) November 30, 2019
Boys: Kankakee 62, Bradley-Bourbonnais 42
After seeing their schoolmates earn their own hardware, the Kays’ boys team kept rolling by topping the Boilers to win their third-straight All-City and Thanksgiving Classic championships.
Kays coach Chris Pickett said the three-peats are proof of the dedication he, his staff and his kids have made to bucking the stereotypes that have sometimes plagued the school.
“It’s a testament to the dedication of the kids,” Pickett said. “There’s some thoughts out there in Kankakee that there’s not a lot of talent out there and there is. There’s a popular thought that there’s no discipline with the guys in Kankakee, and we know that there is.
“By us emphasizing those two things and seeing the success we have because of it makes us feel good.”
The boys didn’t get out to quite the impressive start that the Lady Kays did, but still built a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter and saw that lead balloon to 38-22 by the half.
Pickett said the Kays were able to get ahead early thanks to their offensive balance, as all five starters were able to score at least two baskets in the first half despite a stingy defensive gameplan they expected from Boilers coach Alex Renchen.
“There’s a lot of talk about how much of an Xs and Os guy Coach Renchen is and how he’s always going to have a gameplan,” Pickett said. “And we accepted that challenge, but with that being said, having multiple people to prepare for is difficult.”
The moment of the game came in the second quarter, when on an offensive rebound, Kays reserve KeSean Williams lept straight up with almost no running start, and despite heavy contact that resulted in a foul, had the strength to flush down a jam over the Boilers’ towering, 6-foot-6 center Owen Freeman.
Williams said he saw a slight opening when another Boiler slipped going for the ball, freeing him to make the highlight reel play.
“I saw a dude laying on the ground, so I just went baseline and jumped,” Williams said.
While the Boilers were stuck around the perimeter offensively in the early going, the began to get inside looks to Freeman, who scored all six of his points in the second half. With the inside-out offensive approach, the Boilers were able to trim their deficit to just 44-36 to begin the fourth frame.
“[The Kays’] ability really sped us up in the first half,” Renchen said. “I thought in the third quarter, we did a better job of screening and cutting and focused getting the ball into Owen more.
“As we move forward, we need to keep improving our spacing on offense, playing at our tempo ... and making Owen a presence in the lane.”
But in crunch time, the defending champs stood tall, holding the Boilers to as many points as they caused turnovers (six). It was the second quarter that the Kays did that, after they forced eight Boiler turnovers in the first quarter, the same amount of points they allowed in the frame.
Deylon Johnson, the Kays’ senior guard that played at Bradley-Bourbonnais last year, said the intensity and back-and-forth on the court played into his teams’ hands and gave them the edge they needed.
“It felt good playing against the guys again, talking a little stuff,” Johnson said. “We love when people try and get in our heads. It helps us play harder, play smarter and make better decisions.”
Johnson was one of three Kays in double-figures and finished with 17 points, four rebounds and five steals. Tournament MVP Aaryon Pore had 11 points, a rebound, two assists and a steal. Amrozino Storr finished with 10 points, three rebounds, an assist, three steals and a block.
Gabe Renchen had a game-high 19 points for the Boilers to go along with three rebounds and a steal. T Sykes had nine points and an assist. Freeman had six points, six rebounds and a pair of blocks.