She only scored two points, but Leah Vokolek perhaps made the two most important free throws of a comeback win for Kickapoo.
Kickapoo trailed Strafford by as many as 13 points with six minutes left in regulation of the Pink and White Lady Classic Pink Division semifinals, but Vokolek’s pair of shots from the stripe with 19 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter triggered overtime. Kickapoo prevailed 74-66 with four minutes of extra time.
Vokolek is a starter for coach Jim Pendergrass’ Chiefs but is primarily a defensive contributor.
“Defensively, (Vokolek) brings so much to this team. She is a relentless player, plays so hard, and her effort is absolutely incredible,” Pendergrass said. “She got an opportunity to score and she’s calm and cool and knocked them down when the team needed them.”
Jordan Wersinger led Kickapoo with 18 points Wednesday night at the O’Reilly Family Event Center. The Chiefs needed a team effort to overcome the 13-point deficit and got 17 points from Jordan Sanders, 13 from Hannah Collins and 12 from SBU signee Laura Vierkant.
“We found a way to win, and it didn’t look good for a long time but we kept battling,” Pendergrass said. “It’s a big step for our team; I’m really proud of our kids.”
Strafford junior guard Abby Oliver led all scorers with 22 points. The player whom coach Steve Frank calls “our quarterback” scored all of Strafford’s overtime points.
“I thought when the going got tough, everybody looked at (Oliver). Instead of everybody chipping in, I think everybody kind of put the piano on her back,” Frank said.
Hayley Frank, a 6-foot freshman forward, scored 20 points for Strafford in the loss.
Frank attested to a full-court press Kickapoo used to generate 27 points in eight minutes.
“We played probably three and a half pretty complete quarters and really a good job,” Frank said. “We kind of take pride in when teams press us on scoring on the backside, and today we let them get to us a little bit with their pressure.”
Kickapoo advances to its second Pink and White Lady Classic championship game in two seasons. The Chiefs will play 2014 White Division champions Ft. Smith Northside at 12:30 p.m. at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.
“This is a great tournament field, and to be able to play in the championship game of one of the best tournaments probably in the country is really exciting,” Pendergrass said.
Strafford plays for third place in the Pink bracket against Pickerington Central of Pickerington, Ohio, which lost 62-55 to Ft. Smith Northside in the semifinals.
Kickapoo 74, Strafford 66
At the O’Reilly Family Event Center
Kickapoo—Jordan Wersinger 18, Jordan Sanders 17, Hannah Collins 13, Laura Vierkant 12, Audrey Warren 11, Leah Vokolek 2, Ari Acuff 1
Strafford—Abby Oliver 22, Hayley Frank 20, Kaylee Larimer 11, Kayley Frank 7, Zoey Mullins 3, Logan Eden 3