Lady Jays overcome 21 point deficit to beat No. 14 Kingsley-Pierson
KINGSLEY — Trailing by as many as 21 to Class 1A No. 14 ranked Kingsley-Pierson, the Gehlen Catholic girls basketball team rallied in the second half and pulled in front in the final minute to win the season opener by a 62-58 final score on Monday.
Gehlen Head Coach Brandon Schaecher said his team was resilient after facing a big first half deficit.
“We didn’t really start out the best, but we were able to continue to fight and push through against a good solid team,” Schaecher said. “In the first half, we didn’t play very good help defense, our defense was tight, our offense wasn’t pretty. But to have the resilience to change things at halftime and be able to come out and hold a team like that that shot lights out in the first half to 17 in the second half, that’s a confidence builder.”
Makenna Bowman scored the first points in Kingsley-Pierson’s brand new gymnasium and the Panthers led for the first 30-plus minutes before seeing their lead evaporate. Despite the loss, K-P Head Coach Nicole Goodwin said it was a special night to be able to play in their new facility.
“They were grateful to play in this fabulous facility and they said the vibe in here was awesome and I agree,” Goodwin said. “We would have liked to have had a win for the first event in it, but we’re just very grateful and very blessed that we’re able to have these facilities here.”
After Bowman’s opening bucket, Gabby Boustead sank a 3-pointer as the Panthers took a 5-0 lead. The Panthers stretched the lead out to 12-2 early in the opening quarter before Gehlen closed the gap down to two at 15-13, but K-P ended the first quarter on a 6-0 run. The run continued almost four minutes into the second quarter as the Panthers got out to a 34-13 advantage, their largest of the night.
Gehlen finally got on the scoreboard in the second quarter with a 3-pointer from Jayden Barthole. Lauren Heying got a couple steals and layup attempts in a row, making the first and getting fouled on the second, as the Jays began chipping away at the lead. Heying finished as the team’s leading scorer with 23 points and also led the team with nine rebounds, six assists and six steals. Kenzi Alesch knocked down a shot right before the halftime buzzer to pull the Jays to a more manageable 41-29 deficit at the intermission.
Gehlen scored the first six points of the second half before the Panthers looked like they were going to get things back on track with back-to-back baskets for Allison Reinking and Avery Schroeder. The Panthers maintained the lead with shots from the perimeter as McKenzie Goodwin hit one from the right corner, Bowman added one with just under a minute left in the third quarter, and Schroeder sank one with 3:30 left in the contest to make it 58-51. Those three were all in double digits with Schroeder’s 16 leading the team, one more than Bowman and two more than Goodwin.
K-P was unable to score the final 3:30 of the game as the Jays ended on an 11-0 run. The Panthers had two opportunities at the free-throw line, but Bowman and Reinking each missed front ends of a 1-and-1 which could have added to their point total.
With about 1:30 left in the game, Barthole connected on her third 3-pointer of the night, tying the score at 58. Barthole ended with a career-high 19 points, giving the Jays a nice 1-2 punch along with Heying.
“She’s completely capable of doing that,” Schaecher said of Barthole. “We need two or three girls to put up numbers like that and we’ll be successful on the scoreboard quite a few nights this year. I want Jayden to enjoy it because what a remarkable shooting performance she had along with Lauren.”
Miyah Whitehead scored the go-ahead bucket with a mid-range shot from the lane and Heying made it a two possession contest with 22 seconds left by knocking down a pair of free throws.
After scoring 41 points in the first half, K-P was held to just 17 after halftime. With just six players taking the court, as four of the five others on the roster are only freshmen, Goodwin said her team got worn down by the end of the game.
“We have six right now and our young ones are gaining some experience in JV, but they’re just watching and learning,” Goodwin said. “With running six girls for the first game of the season against a very athletic Gehlen team which ran quite a few girls, I was very proud of them. This year we’re training to play safe and we’re training to be conditioned and that’s not going to happen the first game of the season. You could tell when we got gassed the shots didn’t fall, the passes got a little softer instead of being strong with it.”
Schaecher said he hopes the win will be a confidence boost for his team as they will see several more ranked teams in the early stages of the season, with 3A No. 1 Unity Christian, 3A No. 4 Cherokee and 1A No. 6 MMCRU also on the schedule within the first two weeks of the season.
“For our girls, just the confidence this should instill in them with a tough schedule over the next two weeks, hopefully this gives them that little extra burst that they need,” Schaecher said.
Monday’s meeting was the first between the two teams since the 2020 regional final where the Jays also earned an upset win, beating the No. 9 Panthers as an unranked team by a 73-63 score.