McKenzie edges Wayne Co. 46-42 for state crown
For much of last year and all of this season, McKenzie’s Lady Rebel basketball team was ranked No. 1 in the state by the pundits.
Turns out, the pundits were right all along for a change. Late Saturday night, McKenzie held off Wayne County 46-42 to capture the school’s first girls’ state basketball championship.
McKenzie’s path to the gold ball was perhaps a bit unconventional. The Lady Rebels only scored three points in the final quarter and went 1-10 from the floor. As a result, they watched their eight point, 43-35 third-quarter lead evaporate to a three-point lead (45-42) with 83 seconds to play.
The Lady Wildcats had numerous opportunities in the final frame, but only went 2-8 from the floor themselves. They missed several point-blank shots.
Lady Rebel coach John Wilkins, who joins his father Mitch as a state championship winner, expressed relief in getting past talented Wayne County.
“Our strategy going into the fourth quarter was to see how many shots we could miss,” said Wilkins with a bit of jocularity. “We were one of 10 from the floor and it felt like it. We were one of three from the free throw line, but the one we hit was big. It’s easy to look at the end of the game and see plays that were or were not made … but the ballgame was won earlier.”
The coach said he was pleased with how his team worked through adversity.
“We asserted ourselves in the earlier quarters, but didn’t have our best finish,” he said. “Obviously, it wasn’t one of our best shooting nights.”
The Lady Rebels were 18-50 from the floor, well below their seasonal average, were 4-17 from the arc and 6-13 from the free throw line. Kylie Reynolds’ last freebie with :37 left in the game broke a 6:34 scoreless drought but did give McKenzie a two-possession lead. Wayne County couldn’t close the gap, despite two possessions in that time frame.
Wayne County coach Molly Ashley, former West Carroll girls’ coach, thought her team had momentum in the third quarter.
“I felt really good about how things were going, ” she said. “We missed too many shots and didn’t get any breaks.”
Wayne County outrebounded the Lady Rebels 41-24 and seemingly held every statistical advantage over McKenzie except two, turnovers and final score.
Wayne County broke from the gate to take a 13-6 lead in the first quarter, but the Lady Rebels closed with a 7-0 run to the buzzer. Kylie Reynolds sandwiched a bucket in between a deuce and a triple from Savannah Davis and the two teams were deadlocked at 13 going into the second quarter.
The two finalists traded leads in the second period, the Lady Wildcats squeaking in front 23-22 with 3:46 remaining after Michaela Gallian’s hoop. From there, McKenzie embarked on a 9-0 run to the break, culminating with Katie Chesser’s huge three with :41 left. The Lady Rebels led 31-23 at halftime.
McKenzie pushed ahead by 10 twice in the third. Senior Dani Dyer scored as the second half began to vault her team to a 33-24 advantage. Three minutes later, Wayne County’s Cambree Camfield buried a three to trim the margin to five, 35-30. The Lady Wildcats weren’t going away.
Davis hit a clutch hoop, followed by another big threebie from Chesser. McKenzie led 40-30, only to see WC’s Savanna McClain convert a three-point play with 2:58 left in the third. The lead was pared to seven, 40-33. Mikaela Reynolds knocked down a three 45 seconds later for a 43-33 cushion. However, Wayne County cut it to eight going into the final frame.
Blair Baugus led Wayne County with 16 points and 12 rebounds, Lauren Bryant scored 10. McClain had just three points but pulled down 12 boards. Wayne County finishes 35-5.
Davis took over the game when she needed to and scored 17 points with five rebounds. Mikaela Reynolds added 10 points. Dyer collected seven points and four boards, Chesser threw in six, Briley Auvenshine had three, and Kylie Reynolds scored two.
Davis was named state tournament MVP while Auvenshine and Dyer were also named to the All-Tournament Team. McKenzie finishes with a 31-2 worksheet after winning both District 11A and Region 6A titles.