The Kokomo Lady Wildkats made a season out of beating opponents they were supposed to beat and losing to those that looked better on paper. Only twice this year had the girls’ varsity basketball team risen up and delivered an upset.
Facing the McCutcheon Mavericks, a team that handed Kokomo a 15-point loss on Dec. 8, the Lady Kats had a chance to add a third notch to their belts with a win as underdogs. And for most of the game on Feb. 2, it appeared they might do just that.
Then came a late run by McCutcheon, led by their super freshman, Lillie Graves. Leading by 11 going into the fourth quarter, Kokomo appeared to have a stranglehold on victory. Swarming defense had kept McCutcheon off the scoreboard, and Graves had been largely neutralized. The freshman was held to 14 points on just 25 percent shooting; a far cry from her typical 22 points and 47 percent shooting rate.
Unfortunately, five players take the court for each team. While Kokomo’s senior leader in the paint, Aijia Elliott, matched and then surpassed Graves’ output, the Lady Kats ran out of steam and watched as their lead slowly melted away. The Mavericks got hot at the right time.
Elliott led both teams in scoring with 18 points and three blocked shots. Unfortunately, the rest of the Kokomo squad couldn’t execute, managing just 15 points collectively on an ice-cold 4-32, or 12 percent, shooting rate. Junior Ma’Kaela Drake managed five points, hitting just two of the 15 shots she took.
McCutcheon was similarly cold on their side of the ball. Graves shot just 25 percent to reach her 14-point total. The rest of the team shot 29 percent.
The Kokomo Lady Wildkats saw their season end with a respectable 15-10 record and a third-place finish in the North Central Conference.