(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
BENTON -- Bridgette Chandler has been one of two seniors that have had to deal with playing with much younger teammates this season.
With a roster compiled of mostly freshman, Chandler, as well as fellow senior Karlie Ashcraft, have had to tow the load for the Kelly Lady Hawks, especially early in the season when they lost nine of their first 11 games.
Since then, however, Kelly has won eight of their last nine and has blossomed from an inexperienced team to one that knows how to finish out games behind the guidance of Chandler and Ashcraft.
Their latest victory came on Thursday night when they held off the Delta Lady Bobcats 52-49 at Kelly High School.
"We've really came together," Chandler said about her young teammates. "That first day of practice they had no idea. But, they've come together and I really think they have a good chance to be really good. I think they have a bright future."
Although he's well known to not single out players or their performances, Kelly head coach Rod McQuerter was beaming when thinking back to how his team began the season and the progression they have made behind the leadership of his seniors.
"Karlie is playing with a torn something in her knee and Bridgette led us," he said. "I don't like to single out players but I have to talk about Bridgette. She is leading 12 others and she's doing an excellent job at it. This game was just a compilation of all of her hard work and effort.
"Karlie isn't supposed to be out there playing in her condition, but she is. I'm very proud of my two seniors."
Chandler scored 11 points and routinely found ways to get the ball to freshman Logan Ivie, who finished with a team high 16 points, despite having defenders in front and back of her around the rim.
"She was a handful," Delta head coach Randy White said about Ivie. "We'd put people around her and she still found ways."
The game was not separated by more than six points throughout as the first half was littered with answering baskets and leads of no more than three points.
The game was tied seven times and the lead changed hands eight times in the first two quarters. Kelly shot 23 of 58 from the floor (39 percent).
"We really came together," Chandler said. "We kept playing hard and played as a team. We moved the ball and talked on defense. Our defense really pulled us out with the win."
Ivie scored 10 of her 16 while Machela VanGennip paced Delta with nine points in the first half. Kelly held a slim 12-11 advantage after the first quarter and 24-22 at the half.
Kelly widened their margin in the third quarter outscoring the Lady Bobcats 14-12. Delta's Alysha Vessels and Tori Burton had a basket each to help the Lady Bobcats tie Kelly in the third quarter. Burton hit back to back buckets to knot the game at 30. Kelly's Darbe Backfisch and Stephanie Worth put Kelly back on top by four shortly after, giving the Lady Hawks a lead they would have to protect throughout the fourth.
Delta was dealt a bit of misfortune in the early stages of the final frame when VanGennip suffered a knee injury that knocked her out for the remainder of the game, leaving Delta's other scorer, Burton.
"We knew that VanGennip and Burton were ballplayers," Chandler said. "We made sure someone was on them at all times and made sure they had help."
At the time VanGennip when down, Kelly led 44-40. VanGennip's absence left Delta, who began with just a six-player lineup, with a scant amount of scoring options.
"Our options have been limited for the last eight games," White said. "We've lost Lindse Hambe for the year and we've lost one of our starting guards, Macey Parks, for the year. When Machela went down, it definitely limited us."
A 3-pointer by Tessa Johnson gave Kelly the biggest lead by any team with 3:52 left, 48-42. A 3-pointer by Lisa Lankford, VanGennip's replacement, pulled the Lady Bobcats back to within three but that's as far as they would come to topping Kelly.
The Lady Hawks went into time management mode, working the ball around the perimeter as the seconds ticked away. Kelly went 2 of 6 from the free throw line in the last two minutes while Burton went 2 of 4 for Delta.
Burton led Delta with 20 points while VanGennip added 13.
"I'm just amazed," McQuerter said. "These young girls don't get tired and I'm just so proud that Bridgette is out there showing them how to play the right way.
"We're a very young team, but I can't wait to see these girls next year."
DELTA (49) -- Alysha Vessels 2, Lisa Lankford 3, Machela VanGennip 13, Chasity Taylor 4, Tori Burton 20, Myra Henson 7. FG 13 FT 21-28 F 14 (3-pointers: Lankford 1, Henson 1. Fouled out: none.)
KELLY (52) -- Sam Ratledge 6, Tessa Johnson 9, Darbe Backfisch 2, Bridgette Chandler 11, Stephanie Worth 2, Logan Ivie 16, Payton Jones 4, Jessica Worth 2. FG 23 FT 5-12 F 23 (3-pointers: Johnson. Fouled out: Karlie Ashcraft.)