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Players from Incarnate Word Academy, including, from left, Sophia Otten, Zoe Best, Nevaeh Caffey, Kaylynn Janes and Abbie Sextro celebrated after beating Ursuline Academy 75-32, setting a new Missouri state record with 124 consecutive victories at Ursuline.
Players from Incarnate Word Academy, including, from left, Sophia Otten, Zoe Best, Nevaeh Caffey, Kaylynn Janes and Abbie Sextro celebrated after beating Ursuline Academy 75-32, setting a new Missouri state record with 124 consecutive victories at Ursuline.
Photo Credit: Photos by Sid Hastings for the St. Louis Review

Incarnate Word Academy basketball team secures state record for most consecutive wins

Feb. 15 win over Ursuline Academy gives the Red Knights a 124-game winning streak

Incarnate Word Academy basketball player Zoe Best dribbled by Ursuline Academy's Evelyn Shane Feb. 15 at Ursuline in Oakland. Incarnate Word won the game, 75-32, for the team’s 124th straight victory, setting a new Missouri record.
Photo Credit: Sid Hastings
Incarnate Word Academy’s basketball team has its sights set on another state tournament later this year. Along the way, the team achieved a major milestone Feb. 15 by breaking the state record for most consecutive wins.

The Red Knights broke the record — a run of 123 wins by Strafford High School, near Springfield, Missouri, from 2016-2019 — with a 75-32 win over Ursuline Academy on Feb. 15, putting them at at 124-game winning streak.

The last time Incarnate lost a game was just over four years ago against Rock Bridge High School from Columbia, Missouri, on Feb. 8, 2020.

Coach Dan Rolfes said the team wasn’t as focused on the streak as they were “on winning the game ahead of us.”

“The girls had some jitters, and it’s a good preparation for us to play in other pressure-type games,” he said. “We always talk about … if we want to be successful, we’ve got to do this. It was never a number; it was never chasing a streak. It was just trying to be the best we can be.”

Incarnate’s basketball program currently has 13 state titles, 12 under Rolfes’ tenure. (Its first state championship in 1995 was under then-head coach Jim Johnson.) Their run includes six consecutive state titles through the 2022-23 season.

Ursuline Academy basketball player Abby Walsh was guarded by Nevaeh Caffey, left, and Zoe Best of Incarnate Word Academy Feb. 15.
Photo Credit: Sid Hastings
In addition to the state record, Incarnate also holds the longest current winning streak in the nation. Ellensburg, Washington, follows in second place with 67 games in a row.

For the game against Ursuline, junior Nevaeh Caffey led the Red Knights in scoring with 18 points, followed by 11 points each from senior Zoe Best and junior Peyton Hill.

Nevaeh said she was pleased with the win that earned her team a state record. “I really just played hard,” she said. “We never take anyone lightly. I always look at our competition like us — we just play hard. It’s just the long game, trying to finish and hit the goal.”

Peyton was most proud to be there for her teammates, even though she felt that she’s played better games, personally. “Sharing the ball and leaning on our teammates is a really big thing for us,” she said. “The first thing we do is look for each other when we get the ball. Transition is also big for us — being able to look down the court and see who’s open. Our pace is really fast, and that’s an advantage.”

Incarnate Word Academy basketball player Peyton Olufson shot the ball against Ursuline Academy's Abby Walsh, left, and Brooklynn Williams Feb. 15.
Photo Credit: Sid Hastings
Faith is an important aspect of playing the game, she added. “I always know that God is with me,” she said. “God is the reason I am here today. He’s the reason why I am on the path that I’m on. He knows my future and what I am capable of. I put it all in His hands, and I lean on Him for everything.”

Ursuline has a 20-5 record so far this season; the last time they beat Incarnate was in 2015. The Bears started off the game with a bang holding a 4-0 lead, but by the end of the first quarter, Incarnate turned it around and had led by a score of 23-6.

Ursuline Coach Jeff Williams tipped his hat to Incarnate’s abilities. “They’re just an outstanding team and their pressure just overwhelmed us after the start,” he said. “I was hoping we could sustain that, but they got hot and made about 86 percent of their shots toward the end of the first half. It’s tough when they’re knocking shots down, because they defend so well.”

Sophomore Evelyn Shane led Ursuline’s scoring with 20 points. Williams described her as having a strong work ethic, “which is only getting better. She’s only a sophomore, and to have the season she’s had, that’s great.”

Incarnate is 24-0 this season so far and is 5-0 in conference play. They have two more regular season games, Feb. 21 against John Burroughs and Feb. 28 against Riverview Gardens.

Dan Rolfes, head coach at Incarnate Word Academy, sketched out plays with his players before the start of the second half during the Red Knights game against Ursuline Academy Feb. 15.
Photo Credit: Sid Hastings
Rolfes said he felt once the girls’ nerves calmed down, they moved the ball very well throughout the game. “The good thing about our program is we’re not relying on one person to take us to a state championship,” he said. “There are multiple times when different people are going to be our leading scorers.”

He said that’s a testament to the hard work the team puts in day in and day out and why the basketball program has had so many successes over the years. “I feel like we challenge each other every day at practice, and that’s why I think you see so much growth in our kids,” he said.

There’s also a lot of faith and trust that goes into making a team gel together so well, Rolfes noted. “Everyone knows what they’re capable of, and we’re just trying to play to everyone’s strengths.”

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