Sedalia — Harrisonville hadn’t made it this far in girls basketball in 35 years, so the Wildcats could be excused for not knowing what they were in for playing among Class 4’s final 16.
They certainly do now.
Osage has some experience at this level, and the Wildcats learned what a playoff contender looks like as they were dominated from start to finish in a 50-16 loss Tuesday night in a sectional game at Smith-Cotton High School.
Harrisonville (14-14) was playing its first sectional game since 1982 after winning only the second district girls basketball title in the school’s history. Osage (22-6), a district finalist last year and a district champion in 2015, has averaged 20 wins a game over the past five seasons. What the Wildcats saw up close was a team with size, balanced scoring and withering full-court pressure defense.
“We would’ve liked to have played better tonight but it’s something that kind of gauges us as we go into our offseason,” Harrisonville girls coach Shawn Gibbs said. “If we want to play on this level and we want to advance, there’s a gap between where we are and where teams are at this level, so we’ve got to get better.”
It didn’t take long for that gap to become apparent. Harrisonville made only one of seven shots in the first quarter, and Osage ended the period with an 11-0 run for a 13-2 lead.
The game got out of hand in the second quarter when Osage turned up the pressure and forced nine of Harrisonville’s 24 turnovers, most of them half-court steals that led to easy baskets. The turnovers fueled a 17-1 run that had Osage up 32-9 at the half. The Indians led 48-13 going into a running-clock fourth quarter.
“We were getting empty possessions and that just kills you when you turn that ball over,” Gibbs said. “It not only creates easy shots for them, but when you’re not even getting a shot up, that kills you. Possession is something we always talk about and we just didn’t execute tonight.”
Osage got 12 points each from Jordyn Bartlett, the Indians’ 6-foot-2 center, and Kendal Miller, their 5-7 outside-shooting guard. Harrisonville’s points came from only three players: Bailey Kliewer (seven), Mandi Bundt (six) and Brecken Moreland (two).
Harrisonville didn’t score many points in winning the Class 4 District 12 tournament last week in Clinton, but the Wildcats didn’t need to the way they were playing defense. After beating Grandview 50-25 in the semifinals behind 20 points and 11 rebounds from Kliewer, the Wildcats won the title by holding off Clinton 27-25. In the two district games, Harrisonville forced 48 turnovers and allowed just 14 field goals.
“In districts, we really did a good job defensively,” Gibbs said. “We’re still a little limited offensively so we really have to play off our defense and that was tougher tonight. We did a decent job defensively but there were too many transition situations because we turned the ball over. And you can’t defend a one-on-nothing break.”
Those lessons were certainly reinforced against Osage. And Gibbs expects they will pay off next season, when all but two seniors should return, and the Wildcats try to build on their recent upward trend.
“We have a young team, so we’ve got a chance to do that,” Gibbs said.