The defending state champions ruled in two state basketball
finals involving Catholic schools from the archdiocese. Incarnate Word
Academy earned its second consecutive championship in the Class 4 girls
game, while Chaminade College Prep fought hard in the boys Class 5 game
but lost to defending champion Webster Groves High School.
Incarnate Word’s win
Word defended the Class 4 girls championship with a 69-35 win over Carl
Junction on March 17 at the JQH Arena in Springfield, Mo. The title was
the seventh in the past nine years for Incarnate Word and ninth
Coach Dan Rolfes praised the seniors for their leadership
and credited the team for its stifling defense, which made the
difference against Carl Junction.
“I loved our defense tonight, and to me that’s Incarnate Word basketball,” he said.
Red Knights held Carl Junction to just 28 percent shooting in the
second half and gained important points off turnovers. According to
senior guard Sonya Morris, Incarnate Word’s defense was lacking early in
the season, “until we started playing with a chip on our shoulder.”
Incarnate Word shot 56 percent in the first half and 68 percent in the
second half, when they made all six of their 3-point shots. Rather than
forcing shots, the Red Knights passed the ball to find open shots.
That’s indicative of team chemistry evolving throughout the season, and
the players knowing each other’s tendencies, strengths and weaknesses.
Red Knights, who finished 27-5, also overcame a tendency to take
victories for granted early on, and “everybody stepped up (during the
season),” said junior guard Marisa Warren, who had seven points and six
rebounds in the final.
“We knew we couldn’t take anything for
granted,” said Morris, who scored 17 points. “At this point everybody is
good, so the more confidence you have, the better you play overall.”
Senior guard Nakayla Jackson-Morris led the Red Knights with 18 points in the final.
Junction coach Brad Shorter described Incarnate Word as a “very good,
well-coached team” that presented a match-up that was “a nightmare for
us.” He also praised the team’s ability to stay calm, as well as its
In the semifinals, Jackson-Morris scored the winning basket
as Incarnate Word defeated Kearney 49-47 in overtime. Rickie Woltman
had 14 points and six rebounds; Jackson-Morris finished with 12 points.
Red Knights appeared in the Final Four for the 10th straight season.
They advanced to the semifinals with a 58-43 win over MICDS behind 18
points from Morris.
St. Joseph’s Academy finished third in the
state tournament in Class 5 with a 49-48 win over Liberty. Alexandra
Kerr led with 22 points and added seven rebounds.
came back strong twice against defending Class 5 champion Webster
Groves in a display of athleticism — high-flying scoring, ballhandling
and rebounding by both teams — in the state title game March 17, but
Webster Groves won 101-90. Chaminade narrowed an early 10-point deficit
to 39-36 at halftime. Then Webster Groves busted out a 19-point lead in
the second half before Chaminade whittled it to three points.
the game, Webster Groves coach Jay Blossom praised his opponent,
saying, “I have a lot of respect for what Chaminade does. Those kids
Senior Jericole Hellems led Chaminade with 32 points
and 10 rebounds. Jadis White had 14 points while Luke Kasubke and
Harrison Vickers each had 12.
Chaminade Coach Frank Bennett
praised Hellems’ tangible abilities as a player but also his intangible
qualities as a leader and mentor for the younger players. “As a coach,
you hope when seniors graduate they leave a lot behind,” said Bennett,
who also praised the other seniors and the team managers.
“done an excellent job all their career,” he said, noting that they’ve
come a long way since arriving at Chaminade still looking and acting
like boys. Then, “before you know it they’re men ready to tackle the
world. I’m proud of all of them, even though we didn’t win it all.”
players are “really good young men who worked their tails off to be the
type of basketball players and young men that they are today. That’s
what you hope for each year,” Bennett said.
Their talent showed
during the game and in their 27-3 season. “God blessed these kids with
some athleticism and ability, and all that’s on display tonight for
everybody,” he said.
Chaminade reached the finals by beating Rock
Bridge of Columbia 80-77 in the semifinals March 16. Chaminade trailed
46-30 at halftime and 64-55 after three periods. Hellems had 31 points
and 11 rebounds and Jadis White added 20 points.
won the title in 2016, made the Final Four for the fourth year in a row.
The Red Devils got there this time with a 79-72 win vs. Hazelwood
Central in the Class 5 quarterfinals March 10. Hellems scored 27 points
and had 12 rebounds. White had 17 points.