Free throws, in-bound pass lead to Lady Vikings’ upset

Kennedy Helderop had a torrid offensive performance with 16 points in the first quarter, but cooled off to finish with 20. (Photo courtesy of Austin Marsman)

Hopkins led Calvin Christian for all but 9.5 seconds in Tuesday night’s girls’ basketball game. Unfortunately, those 9.5 seconds were at the very end in a 73-72 defeat.

The Lady Vikings started fast and finished slow, fading in the last eight minutes, largely because of an alarming inability to in-bound the basketball and because of a 35% shooting performance at the free throw line. They blew a 12-point advantage, 55-43, to start the fourth quarter and finally absorbed their first defeat this season in the O-K Silver Conference.

Hopkins still has the inside track on the league title, but it must defeat Godwin Heights in a makeup contest and Kelloggsville and Northpointe Christian. The Lady Viking are 6-1 in the conference standings while Calvin Christian and Northpointe both have two losses, one to Hopkins and one to each other.

It was hard to believe the game would be decided by one point, by a clutch three-point basket by reserve guard Cassie Wielhouwer.

Hopkins threatened to blow the visiting Squires out of the gym in the opening minutes, scoring the first 11 points and running out to a 16-4 cushion. Junior point guard Kennedy Helderop was on fire, scoring 16 points in the first eight minutes, drilling four three-point bombs and conducting a deadly fast break to counter Calvin Christian’s obvious height advantage.

But the Squires managed to pull to within eight points at the end of the first period and they crept to within five, 30-25, midway in the second. They cashed in on eight of 10 free throw attempts while Hopkins was hitting less than half at the charity stripe.

The Lady Vikings led by seven, 38-31, at intermission, but temporarily atoned for the second quarter lapse by shooting out to a 15-point advantage, 49-34. Caitlin Rodanhisler came off the bench to give her team a lift under the boards and with some clutch scoring. It was needed because senior center Meghan Schulz and forward Keelan Kilbane were retired to the sidelines often with foul trouble. Ironically, Rodanhisler got into foul trouble as well.

Schulz and Mikayla Bulich came to life offensively in the third quarter, Schulz under the basket and Bulich on baseline drives and on the fast break on passes from Helderop.

But the fourth quarter turned out to be a nightmare. Hopkins gave up an astonishing 30 points in the last eight minutes, many of them on free throws, but even more on alarming nasty habits involving the in-bound pass. The Squires too often would score and then immediately steal in the resultant in-bound pass and score again on an easy layup.

The result was that Hopkins let this one get away to a team it beat on Calvin’s floor by three points earlier this season. Full disclosure: The Squires, after a poor start at 2-7, have won six of their last eight and they got revenge of an earlier season loss to Northpointe last week.

Helderop paced the offensive attack with 20 points, but 16 came in that torrid first period and she had only two points in the entire second half. Bulich finished with 17, Schulz 14 and Rodanhisler nine. Sophomore Samantha Sebright also came off the bench to score some clutch points.

The Lady Vikings made only seven of 20 free throw attempts, something that’s fatal in a one-point defeat.

Senior guard Kayce Rypma drilled a number of threes and led Calvin with 22 points. Six-foot senior Lily Kuiper netted 16 points, Wielhouwer dropped in 13 and sophomore Grace VanNamen counted 11.

The loss left Hopkins with an overall record of 10-6.

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