Ardaysia Fenner’s first half couldn’t have been much worse. Her second half couldn’t have been much better.
Fenner, a senior forward on the Fort Osage girls basketball team, missed seven of eight free throws and managed just one basket in the first two quarters of the Indians’ game against Grain Valley Friday night for third place in the Grain Valley Eagles Sonic Showdown.
But after a little tough halftime love from Indians coach Lindsay Thompson, Fenner scored 16 points in the second half, including 10 in the third quarter that helped the Indians pull away to a 56-46 victory.
The 19 points were a season high for the 5-foot-7 Fenner, who normally scores around seven points per game. But after missing badly on six straight free throws and making only one basket on three tries, even seven points seemed out of reach.
“I was really off,” Fenner said. “The (Grain Valley) student section kind of had me riled up, everybody’s putting pressure on me, and I just couldn’t handle that at the time.”
Thompson could tell Fenner was struggling as Fort Osage (8-9) had a 29-25 lead through a foul-filled first half. She needed a little talking-to, and she needed a little confidence boost.
“Daysia sometimes just needs a little one-on-one,” Thompson said. “When we came out at halftime, she and I shot a couple of free throws, we made a couple of adjustments, got her some confidence and then she’s fine. She just needs a little TLC sometimes.”
The more confident Fenner sparked a 9-0 run late in the third quarter that put the game away. Turning pin-point passes from sophomore guard Kiyley Flowers on back-door cuts into easy baskets, Fenner scored six straight points during the stretch that gave the Indians a 43-33 lead.
“Kiley does a really great job of finding players when they’re open,” Thompson said. “And Kiley found Daysia over and over and over tonight.”
Grain Valley (7-10), which lost to Fort Osage 45-34 on Jan. 14, never led but kept at the Indians’ heels most of the game. The Eagles managed two ties early in the second quarter before the 9-0 Fort Osage run. Back-to-back threes from Brittney McKay, who finished with 17 points, cut the Indians lead to 33-31 before they pulled away in the third quarter.
“I told the kids I was very happy with us,” Grain Valley coach Randy Draper said. “We were not perfect and there’s things we’ve got to do better. But I thought offensively we took some strides this week.”
Kendra Sibert, who led Grain Valley with 18 points, had seven points in the fourth quarter to help the Eagles close within four points, but for most of the game, they struggled against Fort Osage’s zone defense.
The Indians rarely play zone. But seeing her team whistled for 16 fouls in the first half, Thompson said she felt she had no choice.
“The most impressive thing that happened tonight is that we faced some big-time adversity and pushed through it,” Thompson said. “I told the kids that this is probably our first game where the adjustments we made at halftime, (they) followed through on every single one of them.”
Austin Moise also reached double figures for Fort Osage with 10 points.