Katelyn Ward began Friday night holding a mic and singing the national anthem. She ended it holding the ball and eyeing a game-on-the-line shot.
So which made her more nervous?
“Lining up for the winning shot,” Ward said without hesitation.
Ward didn’t look nervous as she swished a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left that lifted Fort Osage to an improbable 48-47 victory over Park Hill South in the girls basketball season opener at Fort Osage.
Ward’s rendition of The Star Spangled Banner was flawless, as was the play that sprung her open at the top of the key when Kiyley Flowers inbounded the ball. The shot not only gave Fort Osage its first lead since the first quarter, it also capped a comeback from an 18-point deficit.
“We only have two giris who have seen significant varsity time, so that makes things interesting,” Fort Osage coach Lindsay Thompson said, referring to Ward and Flowers. “At practice, some nights go really well and some days our inexperience is out there for all the world to see. And so we knew today we were going to look a little up and down.”
It was mostly down after Fort Osage opened up a 12-5 lead in the first quarter with an and-one from Flowers, who led all scorers with 27 points. But she and the rest of the Indians struggled against a scrappy Park Hill South team that held them scoreless for the first six minutes of the second quarter. The Panthers drove the lane for baskets and forced the visibly frustrated Indians into wild shots and turnovers with their physical play.
Fort Osage trailed 27-16 at halftime, and Park Hill South made it 34-16 with a 7-0 burst starting the third quarter.
“I think it was the first game and the nerves and us not scoring in the second quarter,” Flowers said. “We just had to go into the locker room and gather ourselves to come out and just try to our best to catch up.”
Flowers’ frustrations had her on the bench to start the second half, but she made a layup off a steal and a three as soon as she went in. Another jumper brought the Indians back within 10.
Fort Osage also turned up the defensive pressure as Park Hill South tried to hold onto the ball in the fourth quarter. The press helped force seven turnovers and hold the Panthers to four points in the final period.
“That was our main goal, to keep pressure on them and not give them transition points,” Ward said. “And we did that really well”
That allowed Fort Osage to reel off 12 straight points and close within 43-42 with three minutes to play. Ward converted a baseline drive with 1:07 left that made it 47-45, and Park Hill missed a chance to pull away when the Panthers’ Bali Cortes missed the front end of a one-and-one with 27 seconds left.
Flowers grabbed the rebound, and Thompson called a timeout with 16 seconds left.
“We got to the bench, and Thompson was like, ‘Are we going to win it, or are we going to tie it?’” Flowers said. “And I was like, ‘We’re going for the win.’ And so she drew up the play and we just went and did it.”
Soon Ward would have her third 3-pointer and the last of her 11 points. And another highlight to her evening. And certainly a highlight win no matter what else the Indians accomplish this season.
“I’m really proud of them,” Thompson said. “Showed a lot of fight today.”