Chris Gibson knows when his team is in trouble. Just by the look in their eyes.
So when his White River High School girls basketball team called timeout after it turned the ball over on 10 of 11 possessions during a third-quarter stretch, lost post Darian Gore to her fourth foul and saw their lead evaporate against W.F. West, a team that’s reached the 2A state title game each of the past three years …
How was the look?
“I really liked the focus,” Gibson said. “They were fairly calm. And we got back to taking our time a little more.”
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And Kendall Bird took over from there.
The 6-foot-2 junior post had 29 points and 14 rebounds, lifting the seventh-ranked Hornets to a 59-56 nonleague victory over No. 6 W.F. West on Saturday at White River High School despite Shasta Lofgren’s 25 points for the Bearcats.
Bird scored 13 of the Hornets’ 16 points in the third quarter — even switching to point guard late in the game to help White River (9-3) handle W.F. West’s (10-3) swarming press defense.
“For a kid to have that size and be that explosive, that’s a tough thing for defenders,” Gibson said. “She’s 6-2, but she’s got that first step and she is so amazingly quick. How many 6-2 girls can dribble the basketball like she can?”
Bird spoke after the game with her right ankle wrapped in tape and a blue upper lip from a stray elbow.
“We had to stay gritty, stay in it even if we were getting pushed around,” Bird said. “We knew it would be a tough game.”
Bird, whom the team refers to as “Birdy,” brought it up the court with less than a minute to play, cut to the basket and kicked it out where it eventually found Maci Goethals, who swished a right-wing 3-pointer with 49.6 seconds remaining to put White River ahead, 56-54.
W.F. West’s Erika Brumfield converted a layup two possessions later after White River’s Sydney Andersen made one of two free throws. That cut the lead to 57-56.
White River’s Georgia Lavinder hit both her free throws with 9.1 seconds remaining and Brumfield’s leaning 3-pointer landed short on the other end.
W.F. West made 8 of 44 shots (18 percent) in the first half and made 11 of 31 free throws (35 percent) for the game. It was also without senior point guard Jessica McKay, whom coach Tom Kelly said tore her MCL and ACL in a loss to Burlington-Edison.
“We have a young team and they got to play a lot of minutes,” Kelly said. “It’s just difficult to come in here, but I’m proud of the girls’ energy they put together.”
Especially with W.F. West’s full-court zone press, which during one stretch in the third quarter forced turnovers on six consecutive possessions before Bird broke the streak. W.F. West then forced turnovers on each of the following four possessions.
That’s when Gibson switched up his press break, giving Bird the go-ahead to bring the ball up the floor.
And Gibson never had a look of worry on his face, either.
“This is going to help us get better,” Gibson said. “I was talking about that with their coach after the game. These kinds of games help us both.
“It’s hard to recreate this atmosphere. The crowd is into it, it’s loud. It’s that playoff intensity that is going to serve our kids well.”