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The rivalry: Kayla Gibson leads ‘Blazers to home victory

Boone’s Greyson Stevens (12) goes to block a shot against Crockett’s Alyssa Suits (40). The Trailblazers defeated the Pioneers 53-35. (Photos by Ron Weavers)

By TREY WILLIAMS

H&T Correspondent

It was potentially Kayla Gibson’s Snyder Gym swan song, and it ended on a high note.

The Daniel Boone senior guard scored a game-high 12 points Friday while helping the Trailblazers defeat Washington County rival David Crockett, 53-35, on Senior Night.

The victory secured Boone (9-3, 15-9) at least a share of second place in the Big Seven Conference. More importantly, it showed the ‘Blazers’ complementary players are capable of shouldering the scoring load if opponents devote excessive attention to star Jaycie Jenkins.

Gibson made three 3-pointers, as did fellow senior Madi Runnels, who scored 11 points. Senior post Grayson Stevens added 10 points.

Gibson came out hot after being ice cold in warm-ups. She said learning Crockett planned to employ a box-and-one defense against Jenkins helped motivate her.

“I found my shot and my teammates were really getting me the ball,” Gibson said. “And I kept shooting in rhythm and it just started feeling good. … I thought, ‘Just go out there and play as hard as you can play, because it could be the last time you play in this gym.’”

Second-year Boone coach Beau Hauldren was especially pleased with the balanced performance.

“Gibson kept us going in the first half banging those threes,” Hauldren said. “Madi Runnels did great in the second half hitting shots. And Maddie Bunting in the first half really did well for us rebounding the ball, scoring with her and-one. And then Grayson kind of took over there in the second half. We were going into her and she did a good job of finishing for us.”

Jenkins scored seven points and tallied team highs in rebounds (nine) and blocks (three).

“Jaycie guarded their best player, Emma Gouge, and did a great job on her,” Hauldren said. “But the rest of the seniors stepped up in a big way tonight.”

The victory capped an encouraging week. The ‘Blazers bounced back from a convincing loss at Science Hill on Jan. 31 by avenging a defeat to Dobyns-Bennett with a 42-37 win against the Indians on Tuesday in Gray.

“People kind of wrote us off,” Hauldren said. “We’re tied for second now. It’s a coin flip unless D-B loses Tuesday (against Cherokee).

“I’m happy for ‘em (the seniors) and I’m proud of ‘em. They work extremely hard in the weight room. They work hard during practice. They’re great people in the classroom, great people in the community. They’re good ballplayers and they’re even better people.”

Gibson said interim Crockett coach Cody Connell, who worked with Boone’s girls last season, was intent on throwing a lot of defensive energy at Jenkins.

“All of us having a good game on Senior Night,” Gibson said, “was really special.”

Connell and Lacie York were splitting the coaching duties for the second straight game, according to Crockett athletic director Josh Kite, due to health issues with head coach Tony Gordon. No timetable was given for Gordon’s return.

The Pioneers (4-7, 13-15) got 10 points from Alyssa Suits and nine from Halle Scott.

Connell fared better in the nightcap, coaching Crockett’s boys to a 65-48 victory over the ‘Blazers. Daniel Boone had won in double overtime at Crockett last month.

In the rematch, sophomore point guard Dawson Wagner scored 19 points and made 7 of 10 free throws for the Pioneers (7-4, 17-8), who secured no worse than a No. 4 seed for next week’s District 1-AAA tournament.

“He did what he was supposed to do and what we know he can do,” Connell said. “Especially as a sophomore, that’s big-time for him. He needed that.”

Wagner made two 3-pointers, as did seniors Mack Hensley (17 points) and Donta Hackler (14 points). The seniors combined for a couple of crowd-pleasing lobs that Hackler finished with lay-ins, including one he converted while being fouled to make the score 55-43 with 2:17 remaining.

The connection of skill and athleticism ignited a roar from the large contingent of Crockett students. The student sections sparred with chants that energized the players, and Crockett’s essentially chanted “checkmate” when the high-leaping Hackler finished the long lob.

“That’s what we play the game for – that atmosphere, especially after that,” Connell said. “I’m excited for my guys. They may have celebrated probably a little too much, but you’re talking about a rivalry game.

“One thing we’ve been preaching is putting the foot down and don’t back off. Normally we’ll get up 10 and just let teams back in the game. I thought they really put the foot down and just finished off the game like they know how to finish.”

Boone was led by Colby Backus and Chase McGonigle’s respective 13- and 11-point performances. Cade Norris and Jared Atkins added nine apiece.

The Trailblazers committed 21 turnovers despite Crockett playing half-court zone defense all night.

“I thought a lot of ours were unforced and led to buckets on the other end,” Boone coach Chris Brown said. “They played well. You’ve gotta give ‘em credit. … (Wagner) played well. He got into the paint and got to the free throw line.”

Boone (6-6, 14-10) will visit Sullivan East on Friday for John Dyer’s final regular season game in the Dyer Dome. Crockett will also conclude the regular season Friday with a non-conference game when it hosts Johnson County.