It’s not very often a team shoots less than 40 percent and still wins by about 30 points, but it’s also not very often a team is as talented and athletic as Kankakee.
Thanks to 28 points off 35 Beecher turnovers and 25 second-chance points, the Kays were able to overcome an early shooting slump and storm past the Bobcats 68-40 in the Blue Devil Holiday Classic on Wednesday in Peotone.
The Kays remained an unblemished 17-0 on the season, and the Bobcats had their 11-game winning streak snapped and fell to 13-4 on the season.
“A 9 a.m. game the day after Christmas ... that was a true grind-it-out effort,” Kays coach John Maniatis said.
While the 28-point final might not reflect the grind-it-out effort Maniatis spoke of, the game was played at a more narrow gap, especially in the early going. The Kays were able to force 10 first-quarter turnovers with their vaunted full-court press, but the Bobcats still found themselves down just 15-12 after the first eight minutes.
“Being able to attack rather than panic when we beat their traps, all five girls were looking to score,” Bobcats coach Adam Keen said. “I think that’s what’s exciting coming into these next couple of games.
“There were times I thought, ‘You know what, we can compete with this team,’ but [Kankakee] hit some big shots that set up some nice runs; they’re a really good team.”
It didn’t take long after the first for the Kays to hit one of the runs Keen spoke of. After the teams exchanged buckets to open the quarter, the Kays scored 16 straight points to extend their lead to 34-14 and ultimately took a 37-20 lead to the locker room.
During that run, nine of the Kays’ points came off offensive rebounds, and five more came off turnovers. Maniatis credited a trio of his players for creating most of that offense, which largely came while star senior forward Tabetha Jones was relegated to the bench because of early foul trouble.
“I thought Tamia Wilburn did a great job at the top of the 1-3-1 (zone defense); Imani Williams did a great job on the boards, and Ambranette Storr did a great job of finishing,” Maniatis said. “We were able to withstand the foul trouble Tabetha encountered in the first half, which might have caused some issues for us with spacing and things like that.”
The second half was more of the same for the Kays, especially Storr. She connected on five field goals in the first half and six in the second and finished with a game-high 21 points after struggling early on, missing four of her first six shots, by scoring 10 second-chance points.
“Instead of getting frustrated if I miss my shot, I follow it to get cleanup points and hustle points,” Storr said. “And I also move without the ball.”
Despite the lopsided loss, Keen said he saw plenty of positives from his girls against one of the top teams in the state, but the Kays were just too much in the end.
“With how deep they are and athletic they are to be able to put two girls on the ball all the time, it’s tough,” Keen said. “It’s something we don’t see a tremendous amount of in [Class] 2A, so it was good for us to see some of that stuff.
“The score won’t reflect it, but I thought we did a good job.”
Storr added seven rebounds, five steals and two blocks to her game-high 23 points. Wilburn had nine points and three steals.
Jones had eight points, four assists, seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals in her limited minutes. Williams hauled in 13 rebounds, 10 offensively, and added six points, two assists, four steals and a block.
Abby Shepard had 11 points, four rebounds and an assist to lead the Bobcats. Margaret Landis had seven points, four rebounds, two assists and three steals. Kaylie Sippel also scored seven points and added 13 rebounds and two assists.
Both teams are be back in action Thursday morning in Peotone. The Bobcats take on Joliet West at 10:30 a.m., but first, a clash of the titans take place when the 17-0 Kays take on 12-1 Watseka at 9 a.m.
“When we saw the pairings come out, it was a little eye-opener for us to walk in at 16-0 with Beecher at 13-3, Watseka at 11-1 coming in — that’s a loaded side of the bracket,” Maniatis said. “If we want to go where we want to go, we have to face everybody in the way for us.”