Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
WARDSVILLE — After recovering from a slow start Tuesday, the Blair Oaks girls basketball team hung within one possession of Eugene for a stretch that lasted more than 10 minutes, never falling further than three points behind but never taking the lead.
It took Kallie Kerperin all of 37 seconds to put an end to that.
Kerperin, Blair Oaks’ lone senior, hit two 3-pointers within that short burst, giving the Lady Falcons their first lead of the game and then putting them up five, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in the 53-49 victory.
Kerperin thought she missed her first shot, following it for the rebound.
“And then the second one, when I made that, I got pretty excited and the crowd got excited,” Kerperin said. “I think it just helped set us on a roll. Everybody was up and ready to go then.”
The win was Blair Oaks’ second against Eugene this season. The first came in comeback fashion during the Eugene Tournament when the Lady Falcons used a full-court press to overcome a six-point deficit with 92 seconds to play.
After the press once again helped Blair Oaks make things interesting at the end of a loss Saturday to Hermann, coach Kevin Kohler decided to open Tuesday’s game in a full-court press.
“We thought we’d start out it just to get us playing a little faster but … they were very well prepared for us,” Kohler said. “I thought they did a good job. They know how we transition, so having someone that well prepared for you and you still can beat them and you’re evenly matched, you’ve got to feel pretty good about it.”
The Lady Eagles jumped out to a 12-3 lead before Kellie Fredendall ended a 3:27 drought with a three-point play.
“About the first five minutes, they just kicked the snot out of us,” Kohler said. “We outplayed them after that. We knew that if we just played our game that we’d be OK. We just got off to such a poor start and that’s been kind of the storyline for us this year. We don’t start well and we play nervous and somehow we’ve got to get past that and stop doing that.”
Blair Oaks finished the first quarter within 12-10, thanks in part to five trips to the foul line. The Lady Falcons left four points there, however, and missed 16 free throws in total.
Still, the Lady Falcons shot 29 free throws overall, a byproduct of their offensive approach.
“And that’s what we’re preaching to them, (assistant coach Tifanny) Dowell and I in practice, is take the ball to the basket,” Kohler said. “Just take it to the basket. That’s what manufactured points. We had a week where we had two games that we scored 23 points, so we’ve had to manufacture some offense.
“That’s a good way to do it. Take the ball to the basket, you’re shooting a higher-percentage shot and if they foul you, you get an opportunity at the line. Things worked really well tonight.”
Although, it took two shots from deep to get the Lady Falcons over the hump. Nearly four minutes after Macyn Wilbers tied the game with a jumper from the free-throw line, Kerperin dropped in a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Blair Oaks a 31-29 lead.
After a traveling call on the ensuing Eugene possession, Kerperin hit another, this time from the right wing, to put Blair Oaks up 34-29 with less than two minutes to go in the third quarter.
It was a part of a 10-0 run for the Lady Falcons, whose lead was cut to one just once from then on.
“I think once we got the lead we kind of just had a sigh of relief and we were ready,” Kerperin said. “Then we could calm down and play.”
Both Kohler and Kerperin said they hope the big shots will be a confidence boost for the 5-foot-5 senior going forward.
“Kallie hit some 3s last year so she came into the season knowing that she was kind of a threat,” said Kohler, who is in his first year at Blair Oaks. “She’s had a little bit of off shooting and it was cool that she hit them (Tuesday). Maybe she’ll get started for us.”
Fredendall led Blair Oaks with 11 points and Wilbers notched her second double-double in eight days with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Blair Oaks (4-6) has now won two of its last three games, a stretch Kohler expected to be important heading into winter break.
“We would have liked to have had one (against Hermann), too, but y’know, you want to win them all,” he said. “That would’ve been a good win, but — I don’t really ever call a game that you lose a good loss — but it did impact us some. It did give us some confidence that we could come up against a quality team like Hermann and make a nice run at them
“Hopefully it will come into the new year and the Tri-County Conference tournament that’s coming up and we’ll play really well and compete against them.”
Blair Oaks plays Eldon at 7 p.m. Jan. 2 in that event.