ALTAMONT — A 24-point halftime advantage proved to be just enough for the Labette County Grizzlies, who outlasted the Circle Thunderbirds 60-58 on Thursday night.
“They didn’t hit anything in the first half and at times we played really good defense,” Labette County head coach Kristi Snider said. “But we’ve got to play and learn to not look at the score.”
An engulfing defensive effort by the Grizzlies fueled a 27-point second quarter and gave the Grizzlies a 40-16 advantage at the midway point.
But Circle refused to die. Kimalee Cook, a state 100-meter dash champion, scored 16 of 22 points in the second half for the Thunderbirds who spent the final 16 minutes rallying.
Cook was at the top of Labette County’s scouting report on the Thunderbirds and the quick point guard showed why throughout the night.
“She’s a great ballplayer,” Snider said. “We had to keep her in front and we did a fairly good job in the first half. We had Karsyn (Stewart) on her a lot and she got tired towards the end. But she worked hard.”
Circle got the final shot off of the game, a desperation heave 3-pointer that clanged off the backboard which allowed the Grizzlies to finally stop sweating.
“Down the homestretch, they listened to what we had to say,” Snider said. “We didn’t let them have many threes. They believed in each other. Karsyn was a big force behind that on defense.”
Madison Brannin led Labette County with 14 points. Stewart added 13 and Elsie Sorrell had 12 for the Grizzlies.
“We outsized them,” Snider said. “I thought we needed to go high-low a little bit more, really. Balanced scoring is really what we want. We were trying to keep kids fresh as best we could.”
Thursday’s win over Circle showcased both sides of Labette County — a swarming defense that can manufacture swells of opportunities as well as lulls in hallfcourt offense.
“Our defense really controls our offense,” Snider said. “We were only hitting 27% from the floor in the first two games. But we shot great tonight. We ran the floor and did what we were supposed to. In the second half, we got away from a few things we wanted to do and that’s when we struggled.”
Labette County is now 2-1 on the season and will face Mulvane on Saturday on the road in the final game of the remotely held T-Bird Classic.
“We’ll get out there and play,” Snider said. “It’s another game we hope to get. With the uncertainty right now, we feel fortunate we get to play. We’ve got a lot of things to work on, but we saw a lot of positives this week.”
Labette County 60, Circle 58
Labette County: 13 27 11 9 — 60
Circle: 6 10 23 19 — 58
Labette County: Karsyn Stewart 13, Lauren Forbes 3, Jasmine Perez 8, Anna Dean 10, Madison Brannin 14, Elsie Sorrell 12
Circle: Madi Michaelis 17, Abi Shaults 2, Lanna Chase 13, Maci Claycamp 2, Kimalee Cook 22, Erin Johnson 2