By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
Call it Round 1.
And call it a knockout.
That’s about the only way to define the Kerens LadyCats’ 64-34 win over Hubbard in the semifinals of the Kiwanis Classic Basketball Tournament on Friday afternoon at Navarro College, where many fans showed up for the chance to see unbeaten Hubbard knock off the queens of Kiwanis.
It didn’t happen.
“Experience,’’ said Kerens Coach Denise Lincoln, whose girls have won the last eight Kiwanis titles. “Our girls have been in tough games. They’re used to the pressure. We have a lot of seniors. They (Hubbard) are young and have a lot of freshman. They’re definitely a good team. They hustle and they play hard.’’
Kerens had the added motivation of getting to Saturday night’s championship game, a fact that wasn’t lost on Lincoln’s kids.
“I’ve got too many seniors who are not going to give it up,’’ Lincoln said. “They do whatever they have to do.’’
Kerens will meet the winner of the Frost-Mildred semifinal game at 6 p.m. on Saturday for the title. The Daily Sun has early deadlines on Fridays and the scores and stories on Friday’s late games can be found at corrsicanadailysun.com.
You can find Kerens in the title game Saturday night.
But this is just the beginning of what could turn into a classic series between the two powerhouse teams. They’re in the same district and will play each other two more times in the regular season.
“I told our girls this means nothing,’’ Hubbard Coach Kendall Cotton said. “The one that counts is the one in January when we play them in district.’’
“He’s exactly right,’’ she said. “We play them in the district and those will be big games.’’
Cotton left the gym feeling good about the future of his team, which was 13-0 and ranked No. 6 in the TGCA state poll.
“We picked a bad game to have a bad game,”,’’ Cotton said. “The difference was turnovers. We had 18 turnovers in the first half, and we missed 10 lay-ups in the first half — and we shot 20 percent from the free throw line.’’
Hubbard kept it close early, and hammered Kerens on the boards in the first quarter, but the Lady Jags couldn’t hit the putbacks that would have put them in the lead, and Kerens ran off an 8-0 run to go ahead 16-5 before Kate Saucke hit her second 3 just before the buzzer to close to 16-8.
Kerens (11-4) turned a close game into a rout with an unrelenting defense and an inside game that featured Breanna Baxter and Marqueshia Kelly and an outside game that saw Taylor Ames step up and do a little of everything.
Baxter made 10 of 13 shots and finished the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds while Kelly poured in 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. She also blocked four shots to help ignite a Kerens defense that forced 32 turnovers for the game and dictated the pace on the defensive side of the floor. Ames finished with 14 points and nine rebounds and seemed to hit a shot just when Kerens needed one.
Hubbard was led by Jasmine Parks, who had 13 points, Saucke, who finished with 11, and Nakaila Banks finished with seven points. Hubbard never made more than four shots or scored more than nine points in a quarter as Kerens slowly pulled away.
“We put a lot of pressure on people,’’ Lincoln said of her defense. “We knew what we had to do. We had to stop Banks from shooting 3s. She can get hot and score a lot of points.
“We pulled away from them in the third quarter. I thought it was going to be a close game and we would wear them out. I didn’t think it would be this lopsided.’’
It might not be next time.
Hubbard fans know the Lady Jags can play much better, and Cotton knows what he has to do to change the way his team played on Friday.
“We turned the ball over and we missed lay-ups, and free throws and you can’t do that and beat a good team,’’ Cotton said. “We’re better than that. We will get it fixed. You will see a different Hubbard team tomorrow.’’