CHEROKEE -- By the time Kayln Bitner went to the free-throw line for a one-and-one, the Lancers were well on their way to ending their seven-game losing skid and get their first win of the season in a 44-26 victory over the Jayhawk-Linn Jayhawks.
“It’s nice and talking to the girls after the game, the first thing I said was “this feels good!” It’s good to see their hard work pay off and to finally get a win in the win column,” said Southeast head coach Derek Sanders.
Playing in the Southeast Lancer Classic, which had been altered this week due to inclement weather, the Lancers broke an 8-8 deadlock with a 3-pointer by Jessie Jenkins which served as the start of 28-6 run that carried into the second half and the Southeast wouldn’t relinquish its lead.
“We pride ourselves on our defense,” Sanders said. “When we get set, other teams have to work to score. Tonight was a good example of that. It was nice to see all that I taught them in practice pay off during the game.”
Bitner scored five baskets in the third quarter and finished the night with 14 points.
“It’s awesome. It feels so good to finally win,” Bitner said.
Julie Martin put up 12 points, while MaKayla Buffington had seven. Jenkins finished with six points. Shelby Jackson had three while Bailee Ulery had two.
Grace Broyles finished with eight points, while Kyra Pointer also had eight for the Jayhawks. Shelby Northcutt had two. Brianna Francis had three and Alexis Sanders had two.
Bitner hit two inside jumpers, while Pointer had two of her own, and both teams were tied at 8-8 at the end of the first quarter.
Jenkins began the second quarter with a 3-pointer before Grace Broyles responded with an outside shot.
The Lancers built a 16-11 lead and managed to hang on to for the majority of the second quarter.
Through the entire second quarter, the Jayhawks could only muster a 3-point basket and the Lancers led by five at the half.
Bitner scored four quick baskets from the inside and the Lancers took a 27-14 lead.
“It wasn’t just me,” Bitner said. “Everyone started doing their job and that helped us.”
She scored 10 points in the third quarter alone.
“(Bitner) had a height advantage,” Sanders said. “She’s had that in a few games. She did what she was capable of doing. When her teammates give her the ball in good situations, she’s going to score. She’s tough to defend. I’m proud of what she’s done. She’s getting the success that I knew she would have.”
Martin added a 3-pointer from the far right wing in the closing minutes of the third quarter and the Lancers took a 30-14 lead.
The Lancers’ defense held the Jayhawks to only an inside shot by Pointer and a free throw by Indera Coffel.
An and-one by Buffington gave the Lancers a 34-14 advantage at the start of the fourth quarter.
Both teams traded baskets to start the fourth quarter but the Lancers held on to their advantage.
“You have to learn how to win,” Sanders said. “We did get a little sloppy towards the end but we took a timeout and re-focused. It was good from that point forward.”
A steal by Bitner late in the game allowed the Lancers to continue to run out the clock.
Icy weather forced the Lancers’ game against Erie in the consolation bracket on Friday get cancelled as the tournament revamped the schedule. But Sanders said his players didn’t worry about the uncertainty of the rest of the tournament.
“We try to not worry about things that we can’t control,” Sanders said. “I don’t show them the stress and that carries over. They knew that there was a chance that we may or may not play today but they’re always ready to play. Our girls took all of that in stride.”
Bitner said it was no big deal for she and her teammates.
“Even as a team, we always talk about it and we’re always talking plays and watching game film,” Bitner said.
Michael Bauer is a sports reporter for the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter at @michaeljohn391.