• By RICHARD LARSON
• Daily News Sports Editor
• The Lady Kings didn’t allow a loss to Sitka on Friday to fester.
Instead Kayhi came back with its best performance of the opening weekend, rolling to a 58-28 win over Houston in the Holland America Holiday Shootout on Saturday.
“They did a little soul searching,” Kayhi coach Kelly Smith said. “They weren’t really happy with how they prepared for (Friday’s) game. They had a couple of players-only meetings, and they were ready to go today. The biggest thing was our defense had its bounce back today. We caused turnovers all over the place.”
Kayhi opened the tournament with a 60-34 win over Grace Christian on Thursday before falling 57-41 to Sitka on Friday. Sitka won the round-robin tournament with a 3-0 record. Kayhi finished 2-1; Houston was 1-2; and Grace Christian 0-3.
Guards Melissa Elliott and Jayley Taylor continued to set the pace for the Lady Kings, but they got plenty of help against Houston. Bayley Lindgren scored a team-high 14 points, including 12 in the second half. She also did a great job on the boards, especially on the offensive end, and she had a big hand in holding Houston’s Savanna James, one of the top players in the state, to eight points.
“Bayley did a phenomenal job on Savanna,” Smith said. “We had to make an adjustment in the second half. We had this weird thing at halftime, where Mikayla (Brown-Harrison) banged her knee up in the locker room. With the lead, we didn’t want to put her back in. So we made an adjustment on offense and kicked the ball out to the weak side. Bayley was wide open a lot.”
The Lady Kings battled injuries the entire tournament, but Smith said the team should be healthy for the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic, which begins Dec. 27. Kayhi plays Skagway in the first round. On Thursday, Taylor rolled an ankle and sat out most of the third and fourth quarters, but came back the next day. On Friday, Cassidy Patton hit her head on the floor and got a gash above her eye. She required seven stitches, but was back in the lineup against Houston.
Against Houston, not only did Brown-Harrison bang her knee at the half, Elliott rolled her ankle and Taylor had a jammed thumb.
“On Monday, I think we’re just going to ice, and shoot,” Smith said. “We’ll focus on getting healthy and getting ready to play Skagway.”
The Lady Kings struggled with their shooting in their first two games in Sitka, but shot the ball well against Houston.
“We did hit some shots, which seemed to give energy to their legs,” Smith said. “When you hit a basket, it seems easier to play defense. Every time you score, you get a little quicker on defense it seems. (Friday) we couldn’t get anything going. But we did a much better job (Saturday). I’m very excited for the girls. They got to understand that if we run the system the way it is meant to be done, it can be really successful.”
Kayhi fell behind 4-0 in the opening minutes of play, but surged to a 29-11 halftime lead behind the play of Taylor and Elliott. Taylor scored seven of her nine points in the first quarter, and Elliott had all 13 of her points in the first half. A 3-point basket by Taylor finished the first quarter and keyed a 15-0 run by the Lady Kings that included 3-point baskets by Elliott and Shiree Sells. The Lady Kings held Houston scoreless in the second quarter until the last minute of the half.
In the second half, Lindgren kept the Lady Kings rolling, scoring 12 points. Sells finished with eight points, and Hannah Carson added seven for the Lady Kings.
“We played hard,” Smith said. “Jayley started the first quarter off well and had a great all-around effort. I’m just happy for the girls. They got a lot of comments on how polite they are. They represent Ketchikan well.”
Houston Hawks’ star Savanna James has a Ketchikan connection. James’ grandfather Charles Murphy James lives in Saxman.
James has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Division II Black Hills State University in Spearfish, S.D.
According to the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, James also had interest from Division I Portland, New Mexico State and Weber State, but James chose to sign with Black Hills State after making a campus visit.
“(Savannah) is an outstanding player. I wish the Ketchikan people had a chance to see her play,” Smith said. “I bet she had at least 10 blocks against us.”