Prep Basketball

Girls' basketball notes: A cultural reset, then a signature win for Cedar Rapids Kennedy

After 3 straight losing seasons, upset of Cedar Falls reflects Cougars' progress

Cedar Rapids Kennedy girls' basketball coach Andy Courtney encourages his players during a game last season. The Cougars
Cedar Rapids Kennedy girls’ basketball coach Andy Courtney encourages his players during a game last season. The Cougars knocked off Class 5A No. 3 Cedar Falls, 58-57, Tuesday. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

This was a win worth savoring. So instead of retreating to the locker room, the Kennedy Cougars lingered on the court.

“The girls were super excited,” Coach Andy Courtney said. “This was a true team win.”

A signature win.

Sophia Barrett made a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left, and Cedar Rapids Kennedy made one final defensive stand to upset Class 5A third-ranked Cedar Falls, 58-57, in Mississippi Valley Conference girls’ basketball action Tuesday night at Kennedy.

Yes, the Tigers were minus Emerson Green, a UNI signee who sat out with an injury, but regardless, this was a giant step forward for a Kennedy program that had suffered through three consecutive losing seasons for the first time in school history.

Kennedy lost seven varsity players to graduation after last year’s 7-13 campaign (Courtney’s rookie season as a head coach), so it was a good time for a necessary cultural reset.

“Over the summer, we instituted The Cougar Way, for players to be coachable, to be good teammates and to show better sportsmanship,” Courtney said. “It’s different now; we don’t have a negative vibe.”

Kennedy (2-2 overall, 1-1 MVC) opened the season by hanging with defending 4A state champion North Scott before falling, 69-61. In that game, freshman Kaliyah Sain scored 16 points, but suffered a season-ending ACL tear.

The Cougars trailed 5A No. 1 Iowa City High by seven points at halftime before the Little Hawks pulled away, 79-37. Then came their first win, 50-35 over Pleasant Valley on Saturday.

“We struggled early, but in the second and third quarters, we were fantastic,” Courtney said.

Courtney expected to combat Cedar Falls with a triangle-and-two defense, but with Green out, went to straight man-to-man with Olivia Pecinovsky and Ella Cadenhead getting most of the assignment on the Tigers’ Anaya Barney.

“We face-guarded her mostly the whole way,” Courtney said.

Kennedy stayed close throughout, then Barrett’s free throws accounted for the final points. Barrett, a junior, led the Cougars with 19 points. Seniors Camryn Ray and Sadie Powell added 17 and 12 points, respectively.

Prairie's dandy duo

You couldn’t have scripted a better start to the season for Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Mallory McDermott and Sidney McCrea.

The duo combined for 65 points (McDermott scored 38 points on eight 3-point goals, McCrea added 27) in a 78-52 home win over Iowa City West on Friday, then tallied 50 more (McDermott 29, McCrea 21) in a 68-48 triumph at Waterloo West on Tuesday.

Through three games (Prairie is 3-0), McDermott is averaging 27.7 points, McCrea 20.0. They are combining to shoot 59.3 percent from the field, including 67.9 percent from long range, plus 87.5 percent from the free-throw line.

McDermott was signed with Western Illinois, McCrea with Northern Illinois.

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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