WILBURTON – If Hilldale’s Kenzie Mize was still waiting to have her breakout game, the wait is over.
The freshman was 7 of 7 shooting and 14 of 19 from the free-throw line for 28 points, and a game-high eight rebounds, in leading the Lady Hornets to a 55-47 win over Victory Christian in the Class 4A Area IV area consolation quarterfinals on Thursday.
“She’s a heck of a player to be a freshman,” said Hilldale coach Scott Hensley. “It was also smart for the rest of the team to get the ball to her in the first half.”
Mize shouldered the load in the first half of the game, going 5 for 5 from the field while converting eight free throws for 18 points as Hilldale (18-7) led at intermission 28-17. She made her first eight attempts from the charity stripe then missed her final four of the first 16 minutes.
“I realized whenever I went to the free-throw line a bunch that they were fouling me every time I got it,” Mize said. “So, that was the plan after that.”
In the second half, the Lady Conquerors (17-8) decided to double-, and sometimes triple-team her to try and prevent her from having her way. When that happened, Mize kicked out the ball to one of her teammates and the offense reset.
“I think I was just getting tired at the end of the first half,” Mize said. “I was just being short with my free throws so I think I got a break at halftime and I just got right back in it.”
While Victory Christian kept Mize in check in the second half, holding her to 10 points, the rest of the Lady Hornets picked up the slack.
Katie Kirkhart, who was held scoreless in the first half, tallied seven points in the second half while Casady Mills picked up four points, Destiny Riddle had three points and Hillary Calvert had two points, most of which came from the free-throw line in the final quarter as Hilldale made seven of eight attempts down the stretch to finish.
“We practice free throws all the time in practice,” Kirkhart said. “We knew if they got they lead, they would have more momentum and a better chance. They’re pretty good shooters, so we had to always have someone in their face.”
Victory Christian took the momentum early, grabbing a 7-4 advantage with 3:12 left in the first quarter. Hilldale regrouped and with 1:05 left in the quarter, Mize stole and inbounds pass, made a layup and converted the free throw to put the Lady Hornets on top 12-9 and held a 12-11 lead after the first eight minutes.
Hilldale took control of the game in the second half as the Lady Hornets held the Lady Conquerors to six points to take an 11-point lead heading into the locker room. Most of the lead was created by Hilldale’s defense and it forced it turnovers and limited Victory Christian to 33 percent shooting (6 of 18).
“The girls played really hard and really smart basketball,” Hensley said. “I was really proud of them. That was a good job on their part.”
The third quarter saw Victory Christian make a run at Hilldale, cutting its deficit to one on three occasions, including at the end of the third quarter while the Lady Hornets leading 40-39. Every time the Lady Conquerors, had a chance to tie or take the lead the rest of the way, the Lady Hornets got a stop on defense and either made a bucket of converted free throws to keep Victory Christian at bay.
With the victory. Hilldale remains alive in the tournament and moves on in the area consolation bracket. The Lady Hornets will play Poteau, a 55-35 winner over McLoud, at 1:30 p.m. today in Wilburton with the winner being one victory shy of advancing to next week’s state tournament.
“Main thing is we need to get off our feet and rest,” said Hensley about preparing for today’s game. “And eat a good meal.”