By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
Just tell basketball season to wait.
Stick it in the corner, or put it way up in the bleachers — or tell it to jump on the bandwagon with the rest of Kerens, a green and growing bandwagon that’s rolling along just like the volleyball team.
It’s the same kids, same girls, same stars who play basketball, but this is different. This is new and groundbreaking, never-before earth-shattering stuff.
Call ‘em The History Makers. That’s what they are, this scrappy, tough and talented high-flying group that’s marching through the playoffs for the first time like never before. That’s what happened Thursday night in the Teague gym, where Kerens beat Mart (that’s right district champ Mart) in four sets (26-28, 25-20, 25-17, 25-21) to win the Area round in the Class A1 playoffs and advance to the region for the first time.
“This is the first time in the school’s history we have gotten past the area round,’’ said Coach Kristen Lynch, who was as proud of her kids for their tenacity as the win on Thursday. Kerens looked in trouble early in a tough first set that saw the teams fight through 14 ties, including 25-25 and 26-26 before Mart won 28-26. Kerens looked tentative and a bit nervous.
But then those 26-5 Lady Cats, who have worked all year to get here, stormed back, and never trailed again, sweeping the next three sets.
“It says a lot about their character,’’ said Lynch, whose team will play Milano next week in the regional. “We played one of the worst games of the season, but it’s something to say about your team when you can come back and pull out a win. We’ve been in the situation before and the thing about them is they never quit. They’re always fighting, always fighting’’
And always believing.
Just ask Taylor Ames or Marqueshia Kelly, a couple seniors who helped lead the comeback.
“Whenever the team is down, those two are the ones who pick us up,’’ Lynch said. “They talk to the other kids and get us going.’’
Kelly left Mart with nightmares. She was amazing at times and was dominate at the net, where she crushed one shot after another, blocked shots like a
border patrol, and then drove Mart crazy with dinks and taps and pushes that landed softly but with the impact of a right cross to the chin.
And when Kelly wasn’t killing it, Breanna Baxter was. Once again, Baxter, who had 16 kills and 14 blocks to go along with seven digs, was brilliant, slamming home her point time and time again. The Kelly-Baxter combo ripped off 28 kills and 23 blocks to control the net, and Ames, Emmanuella Armant, Cambree Betts, Tinesha Tolliver and Kayla Kilcrease were taking care of just about everything else.
Betts was priceless at the service line, where she not only went 18 for 20 with three aces, but she seemed to deliver just when Kerens needed it most.
“She made the crucial serves,’’ Lynch said.
Betts also had five blocks and six assists, and Armant had her moments serving as well, going 17 for 18 and three aces with two kills, five blocks and six digs. Tolliver was solid and (12 for 14, 1 ace, 1 kill, 8 digs), Kilcrease (12 for 12, 1 ace and 15 digs) was diving all over the floor to save slams with some digs that killed Mart’s momentum, and Ames was Ames. In many ways she’s the heart of the team and had another heartfelt night — 24 for 27, six aces, eight blocks, seven digs and an amazing 30 assists on a night when every one meant something.
“We don’t care about basketball right now,’’ Ames said. “We’ve never been here before. It’s our first time to win area, and it feels great.’’
Kelly, who had 12 kills and nine blocks) was even more emphatic, talking about history and how sweet it felt to make it.
“It was a tough first set,’’ she said. “We just had to feel them out, but then we got going. The seniors had to step up. We made history, and now we just have to keep it going . We’re determined to keep going. We’re ready.’’
Basketball can wait ...