Archive for Thursday, December 7, 2006

Firestarters

December 7, 2006

If all the games are this much fun -- heck, if they're all half this much fun -- the De Soto girls basketball team has a lot to look forward to.

Season openers don't come much nicer, and the Wildcats enjoyed their 80-38 shellacking of Olathe Christian from top to bottom -- the Cats dominated the entire way and did so using the entire 12-player varsity roster.

The win put De Soto into the semi-final round of the Osawatomie Trojan Tipoff Tournament, a 6:15 p.m. showdown Thursday against Metro Academy.

"We've never scored like that before and it felt really good," senior Kaylee Spencer said. "Everyone was helping, so it felt great to have everyone contribute. We shot really, really, really well."

The win, which advanced the Wildcats to the semi-final round of the Osawatomie tournament, also sets up a rematch against Metro Academy, the team that knocked De Soto from the same tournament's semi-final round a year ago.

Technically, that season started much the same way -- with a big opening-night win, then a showdown against Metro. But it's been a long time since the Wildcats have had a win like Monday's.

It's not just that the Cats won, it's by how much they won. De Soto never scored more than 52 last season, and didn't net 80 in most two-game stretches. The team only topped 60 twice in the last two seasons.

"It just was fun out there," coach Dwight Spencer said. "I don't ever remember scoring that many. The key was we got really shots, and we're not bad shooters when we get good shots."

And it wasn't about how good returning stars Jackie Goleman and Kira Gonzalez played. Though Gonzalez led the Cats with a game-high 20 points and sparked the team with three 3-pointers and 13 first-quarter points, coach Dwight Spencer said Monday's game was one to remember because of the strength De Soto showed up and down the roster.

All 12 of De Soto's varsity players saw extensive minutes, and 10 got on the scoreboard.

Gonzalez got the Cats rolling early, but Kaylee Spencer also provided some early fireworks.

The senior who saw limited time as a long-ball specialist a year ago exploded into the new season with 10 points and two treys in the first half. She then added one more 3-pointer and another basket in the third quarter before taking a seat on the bench next to the rest of the experienced Wildcats.

Freshman Katie Williams also made the most of her career debut. She scored her first two baskets in the first half, then cashed in four more in the fourth quarter. Her 13 points were good for third on the team, behind Spencer's 15 and Gonzalez's 20.

"I told the kids we probably wouldn't be playing 12 all year, but early in that first half we got in some foul trouble and I was asking a lot from some inexperienced kids," Dwight Spencer said. "They did exactly what I asked of them. They didn't try to overplay the game and they just did a real nice job."

And it wasn't just about running up the score on an obviously overwhelmed Olathe Christian team.

Christian was led by sophomore Leah Cotton and junior Amy Green who combined to score all but five of the team's points, but the team somewhat took advantage of a lackluster De Soto defense early in the game. The Cats radiant offensive attack kept the game from ever being close, but it was the second half that left the Cat coach really smiling.

De Soto shored up its defensive holes and played solid fundamentally.

The better defense turned into more steals and a string of fast break layups, and the consistent fundamentals turned into a continuous stream of shots that poured in from around the court.

"We were really pleased with our defensive effort, especially in the second half, and it surprised me the way we shot the ball," Dwight Spencer said. "I don't know if we're capable of doing that game in and game out, but it makes us tough to handle."

Now the Cats are hoping their second outing of the season can be as much fun as the first, and it could come down to whether or not all the bright spots seen in the opener can be carried on into the season.

De Soto scored just 28 points when it lost to Metro a season ago. All 36 of Metro's points came from just three scorers and two of them -- sisters Taber and Shalin Spani -- return.

"We worked really hard and everyone contributed, but we need to work on a lot of things," Kaylee Spencer said. "We need to work on our help defense, and we need to keep shooting it. Next week it'll be tough to shoot it again just because it'll be tough to get open."

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