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Girls basketball: Missouri state of mind

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GENOA – The Tweet from Michael Pasley arrived before tipoff, telling me I needed to try covering games in Missouri. 

Apparently, accommodations for media members in that great state aren’t good for high school basketball games. 

It was a response to a Tweet about a slight adventure Christopher Heimerman and I had while trying to get to the press area at Genoa-Kingston High School for Monday’s 3A girls regional semifinal between Sterling and Rockford Lutheran.

Sterling won on Monday, 60-54.

The mention of Missouri reminded me of the summer of 2008 when I spent a week in Joplin covering a bunch of 11-and-12 year old girls play in the Little League Central Regional for softball. 

The first player to come to mind was Stephanie Kester. The slighty-built, blonde-haired hurler was the unquestioned ace of the staff. 

When she took the circle, Sterling was going to win. She seemed to have radar that popped out of her golden locks and zeroed-in on the glove of catcher Mackenzie Staples. 

Kester, Staples and other girls like Bailey Oetting and McKenna Pearson helped that team earn third-place at the Little League World Series in Portland, Ore., later that summer. 

Kester’s radar was fully functioning on Monday night. This time, it was dialed into the bottom of the net at Genoa-Kingston High School. 

It started with a 3-pointer from the corner off a Gabby Sandoval assist with 6 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first quarter. 

The shot was part of an 11-0 run that turned into a 13-2 advantage by the end of the first quarter. 

She hit three more 3-pointers in the second quarter as Sterling led by as many as 13. 

“It was awesome,” Pearson said. “We shoot together in warmups, and she wasn’t hitting a thing. Usually, she is hitting everything. 

“Then she came out and started to make shots. I went up to her and told her that she needed to keep shooting because she wasn’t missing.”

Kester finished with 24 points and tied a school record for six 3-pointers. 

Her hot shooting was a stark contrast to pretty much everyone else on the court. 

Lutheran started the night going 1-of-17 in the first quarter. The shooting didn’t get any better for the Crusaders, who trailed for all 48 minutes.

If you take Kester’s 8 of 10 from the field away for Sterling, the rest of the team shot 13 of 36 (36 percent). 

The Crusaders only heated up enough to pull within a point at 41-40 with 35 seconds left in the third quarter. 

That’s when Kester answered again with a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left.

Pearson, who had picked up her fourth foul earlier in the quarter, was watching from the bench. 

“I was screaming the whole time while I was on the bench,” Pearson said. “I never like being on the bench, but I knew we’d hit the shot.”

Sterling’s Kiarra Harris, a junior forward, knew the team would respond. 

“The group of seniors want to make this run as long as possible,” Harris said. “We want that too. We’re playing our best basketball. They made that comeback, but I knew we’d hit the big shots in the stretch.” 

Kester, Pearson, Harris and the whole bunch will see if they can keep that magic going on Thursday in the sectional final. 

If Kester keeps shooting like she pitches, then February of 2013 could start to feel a lot like the summer of 2008.

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