PITTSBURG, Kan. — With one second left in regulation and the game tied at 39-39, Carl Junction’s Klohe Burk stepped to the charity stripe and drilled a pair of pressure-packed free throws to send the Bulldogs home with a 41-39 victory as well as the claim to the Bill Hanson Memorial basketball tournament title on championship Saturday at Pittsburg High School.
“There are not a lot of people who would like to be in that situation because it is pretty nerve-racking,” Carl Junction coach Brad Shorter said about Burk’s clutch free throws to clinch the tournament championship win. “She just walked up there with ice in her veins and just knocked them both down. Nothing but net, like she’d do it every time. She would, too. She is such a great kid and she works so hard. It couldn’t have happened to a better person right there.”
The win over the Chiefs (12-5) facing more than a 20-point deficit was quite a journey for the Bulldogs (15-1), who ultimately trailed 31-13 after an energy-deprived first half. But Carl Junction righted the ship in the third quarter, and it started on the defensive end. The Bulldogs held Kickapoo off the scoreboard completely in the third period, shrinking the deficit to eight points to start the fourth quarter. CJ used a quick surge with three minutes left to tie the game down the stretch before Burk’s free throws sealed the win.
“That was one of the worst first halves we played all year,” Shorter added about the win. “We didn’t come out with very good energy. We didn’t rebound the ball. We just didn’t play very tough. I challenged them in back to back timeouts and again at halftime.
“I thought we came out with more toughness in the second half, obviously. Holding them to no points in the third quarter was a big piece of that victory. Klohe was phenomenal defensively—just phenomenal defensively, and so was Kylie (Scott) in the second half. And she was grabbing rebounds, and so was Dezi (Williams).
“A program as rich in tradition as Kickapoo, and they were 21 up, you start to think, ‘I don’t know if we can do this.’ It was getting to that line where you start to waver a little bit. Man, our kids fought back, we were really tough and we got some good things accomplished in the second half to get this win.”
Kickapoo knocked down four 3-pointers in the first half and led by as much as 21 points, 29-8, with 2:36 left in the first half before a Burk 3-pointer and a bucket in the paint from Scott helped trim the deficit to 18 by the break.
The momentum flipped almost instantly out of the locker room, as Williams knocked down a 3-pointer early and the Bulldogs began to chip away at the Chiefs’ advantage. Destiny Buerge followed with two free throws before Scott buried a corner 3-pointer with 3:50 to play to cut the deficit to 10, 31-21. Burk closed the third-quarter scoring with a steal and score on the break with 1:21 left to send the Bulldogs into the final eight minutes down 31-23.
“At times, we have been able to do that to some teams—some quality teams,” Shorter said about keeping the Chiefs off the scoreboard for the entire third quarter. “A lot of it is just getting locked in and knowing we are all on the same page. There were countless times in that first half that we weren’t on the same page. Our kids weren’t communicating or talking, our body language was pretty poor, and we discussed that. I said I wasn’t going to be a part of this if our body language was going to be that bad because our program prides itself on good body language, good chemistry and being a class-act team. We did that in the second half. We turned it around and played tougher, and that was a huge reason for our run to cut into their 18-point lead.”
After the Chiefs pushed the lead back to 10 early in the fourth with a pair of 1-for-2 trips at the three-throw line, Scott put CJ on her back to jumpstart the final push towards the lead—knocking down a 3-pointer from the top of the key before drawing contact on several straight possessions attacking the basket that culminated in a perfect 6-for-6 shooting at the stripe to trim the lead to 37-32 with three minutes left.
“It’s incredible what she is able to do,” Shorter said of Scott’s play in the second half, particularly down the stretch in the fourth quarter. “When you look at our team, with the exception of Kylie, everybody is about (5-foot-8), 5-6 or 5-7. The teams we are seeing here—last night was 6-4, 6-foot, 6-foot and 6-1. Kickapoo—6-3 and a number of girls who are 6-foot. She is working against a lot of big kids in there. The key for her early is if she feels a double, to kick it out and get back. In the second half, she was able to do some things outside and she is a monster inside. Her toughness was incredible late.”
Buerge came up with a steal and a layup on the break the other way to cut the lead to three with two and a half minutes to play before Williams buried a 3-pointer from the wing with 1:43 left to tie the game at 37-all.
The Chiefs briefly jumped out in front after a pair of three throws from Makayla Pilley with 50.8 seconds left. Scott, who finished with 11 points in the fourth quarter, tied the game up almost immediately into the next possession.
Kickapoo missed a mid-range bucket and a putback attempt on the next trip down with 15 seconds left, with Scott grabbing the defensive rebound and finding Burk with the outlet pass, who drove to the hoop as time dwindled and drew the foul with one second left to set up the game-winning makes at the charity stripe.
Scott led Carl Junction with a game-high 19 points to go along with 14 rebounds for a double-double. Williams finished with nine points, while Burk closed with seven in the win. Buerge closed with six.
Pilley finished with 10 points in the loss to lead Kickapoo in scoring. Josie Salazar finished with eight points.
Carl Junction takes part in the I44 Lady’s Classic hosted by Lebanon with a matchup against Warrensburg (10-5) on Thursday.