It was all set up for the Lady Blue Comets to tie a basketball game at 51 versus Iola Thursday night at Chanute High School.
With the score at 51-48, Chanute had just stolen an inbounds pass underneath their own basket. Head coach Dustin Fox called a timeout. Out of the timeout, Chanute ran a play to pass the ball from side to side before finding a wide-open Kori Babcock in the corner.
Babcock caught the ball in the corner pocket. The ball was almost assuredly going to go in, as that’s what she has done all year, hit big-time shots. This time, however, her shot was a tad bit off with only seven seconds to go.
Iola gained possession, but Kelsey Morrison missed two free throws, giving CHS another chance. Babcock, about 10 feet behind the 3-point line, used her entire body to attempt one of the longer shots of the evening, but she was hacked by Iola. The referee didn’t call a foul, signaling the game was over and leaving the court as a procession of Chanute faithful heavily jeered at the officials. Iola (6-6) won the game by a score of 51-48.
While Babcock wanted at least 29 points to tie the game, she left the contest with 26 points and four rebounds. Jacey Lewis scored 11 in the game.
“That’s what we drew up, and Kori got a great look at it, and it just didn’t go,” head coach Dustin Fox said after the game. “We’ll take our chances of her getting that look and sometimes they don’t go in. But I love, though, that she is a kid that’s willing to step up to take those shots.”
After winning two games in the Bill Hanson Memorial Tournament in Pittsburg last week – a major improvement from a year ago when CHS didn’t win a game in that tournament in 2019 – the Lady Blue Comets were looking great early on, primed to win a third game in a row.
But after being up 15-2 in the first quarter, Iola roared back with a 32-4 run to take a 32-19 lead at the break. Rebecca Sprague, Elysia Kunkler and Morrison hit some open shots that really swung the momentum of the game.
“We just moved the ball and took great shots,” longtime Iola head coach Becky Carlson said. “They had trouble with our offense, and we took good shots, and we played good defense. It was a team effort. We just took shots if we had them.”
Iola was able to get the shots that they wanted by moving the ball side to side versus Chanute’s 1-3-1 defense. Crisp ball movement allowed Iola’s ball handlers to get deep in the paint before kicking it out to wide-open shooters.
Fox said he credits the Iola Lady Mustangs during this period in the game.
“A lot of credit to Iola and their kids. They outworked us during that stretch and hit shots, and that’s a bad combination for us,” Fox said. “You can’t win games when you are not rebounding the ball and when you’re turning it over. We dug ourselves a hole in the first half. I thought our girls showed some grit and gave ourselves a chance in the second half, but we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
What made it hard in coming back was snatching just six rebounds in the first half and committing seven turnovers.
Still, in the second half, Chanute had a burst of energy. Babcock came out and hit a 3 and stole the ball for an easy layup for a personal 5-0 run.
But Iola answered every time. Morrison hit a layup as she was fouled, and then she hit another 3 to extend the lead 37-24 with 5:59 in the third quarter.
Lewis then hit two straight 3s to make the score 37-30, before Iola’s Kunkler stroked a 3, making the score 40-30.
The fourth quarter started that way, too, as Chanute would be as close as one point after Brianna Waggoner hit a 3 to put the score at 44-43 with 4:50 left in the game.
Morrison, however, answered with a layup, as this was the theme of the game.
The game was that tight until the end of the contest due to missed free throws and sloppy execution on Iola’s part.
Morrison scored 15, and Sprague had 12.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
Chanute (9-3) will next play Fort Scott on the road Tuesday.