Just two games into the season, the Fort Osage girls basketball team is showing major progress.
And that’s with a couple of key seniors out with injuries.
Though they didn’t produce a win like they did in their season opener, the Indians – who only won two games a year ago – took a Smithville team that beat them by 30 last year to the final minute Monday during a 47-39 loss in the first round of the Cardinal Division bracket at the Winnetonka Tournament.
“Tonight we started two kids that had never started a varsity game and started no seniors,” Fort Osage coach Lindsay Thompson said. “I thought we battled hard. This is my second year and it’s going to take a while to jell. We have four kids who are playing at the varsity level at 14 years old. This was a good test for us. We battled really hard, learned from this and we’ll move forward.”
Besides experience – the Warriors start three seniors – the difference came at the free-throw line.
While the Indians (1-1) hit more shots from the field (15-10), the Warriors outscored Fort Osage 27-3 at the charity stripe.
When their full-court press or half-court trap didn’t force a turnover, the Indians were forced into fouling Smithville’s talented post players Lexi Moes and Caylie McKimens, who combined for 27 points.
“I thought our lack of rebounding was what lost this game for us,” Thompson said. “It was a lot to a little. We’re not going to win a lot of games if we can’t rebound and if we send kids to the line a whole bunch of times instead of making them score field goals.”
Fort Osage received the majority of its offense from the backcourt duo of junior Alecia Monday and freshman Kiyley Flowers.
The two combined for six 3-pointers and 30 points, with Flowers pouring in 18 to lead all scorers.
While Flowers may be a budding star following 35 points in her first two high school games, Thompson sang the praises of Monday’s competitive nature and the extra work she’s put in during the season, something the player herself noted is showing dividends.
“I’ve been working on my shooting a lot by staying after practice and taking shots,” Monday said. “It’s paying off as they’re starting to fall more and more.”
Thanks to an effective press, the Indians led 15-10 early in the second quarter after baskets off turnovers by Flowers and Austin Moise.
“We try to force a bad pass as much as we can on the press,” Monday said. “I feel like it makes the game move faster. We work better when we’re going faster because sometimes we (break down) when we slow things down.”
The Warriors responded with a 10-2 run to end the half and never trailed again. They opened up a 42-31 lead midway through the fourth before Flowers drained consecutive deep 3-pointers, but Fort Osage could get no closer than that the rest of the way.
“I thought we had some chances late,” Thompson said. “We just don’t have the maturity or chemistry yet to pull that out. In mid-January, I think we walk away from a game like this with a win.”
Fort Osage plays Grandview in the consolation semifinals tonight at 7.
“We had some really good things happen on the press and overall,” Thompson said. “We just need to tweak some things to make it better. And we’ll start with that (today).”