BKW escapes in overtime at Mekeel
SCOTIA — It wasn’t a well-shot basketball game by any means, but the bout between Berne-Knox-Westerlo and Mekeel Christian Academy made for thrilling theater nonetheless.
In a state-of-the-art gymnasium that brought the noise to an almost deafening level, the Bulldogs and the Lions hustled up and down the court at a furious pace. It was the opening Western Athletic Conference game for both teams, and one these girls won’t soon forget.
“It was pretty crazy,” BKW sophomore Kathryn Salo said after the 46-to-45 overtime win last Friday. She was a force down low, scoring most of her 14 points in the paint, but fouled out with 1:42 left in regulation play. “Everyone was motivating us, so it turned out pretty good,” she said. “Other people stepped up like they should.”
Danielle Keppler, who replaced Salo, swung the game in overtime when she took a charge from Mekeel’s Rebekkah Dean, an eighth-grader who had been terrorizing BKW all night. With only seconds remaining in overtime, Julia Hilton missed a free throw for the Bulldogs, and Dean grabbed the rebound, dribbling hard the other way.
Dean’s shot beat the buzzer, and it was a good look, but the ball rimmed out. BKW had escaped with a stressful win on the road.
The game almost didn’t need overtime. At the conclusion of regulation play, Mekeel had a chance to win when Lexy Rychcik fed a long pass to Lindsay McCarty, who was ahead of the pack, but McCarty missed the lay-up as time expired.
Tom Galvin has been coaching BKW for 19 years. How much did this game take off his life?
“At one point, my shirt was out of my pants, my tie was real loose, and the people at the score table were looking at me like something was wrong,” said Galvin, seeming relieved after the game. “I’m getting too old for this, but these great games never get old. It was a battle, back and forth.”
The Bulldogs had been “pasted,” Galvin said, in a non-league tournament — losses to Herkimer and Waterville — before last Friday’s contest. “We really needed this win; our confidence was shattered a little bit,” he said. “A win like this on the road, against a tough team, changes the season.”
Three consecutive three-pointers by Nicole Barratiere in the second quarter had helped Mekeel build a lead that carried over throughout the third quarter. BKW was giving up too many offensive rebounds and committing too many fouls.
“We had our heads down, but realized we could come back,” said ninth-grader Monique Britton, who scored 17 hard-earned points for the Bulldogs. She scored all four points in overtime with two identical scoop lay-ups. “It was a hard game,” she said, “but we hustled, kept control, and kept our hearts.”
Galvin told The Enterprise that BKW got “whistled to death” by the referees while very few calls went against Mekeel. Salo, who agreed with her coach about the lopsided officiating, said that the Bulldogs like physical play, but Galvin thinks his players need to be a little more disciplined.
“We have young, inexperienced kids,” he said.
BKW lost five important seniors to graduation, including Liz Harvey, the best player in the team’s history. Salo, Britton, and senior Delaney Martin are the only returning players. The Bulldogs have won five straight WAC titles.
“We have to fill a lot of shoes this year,” said Salo. “We still have the potential, and we’re trying to be team leaders. We really want to win, and we step up when we have to.”
Britton said that things last season came naturally; the seniors instilled a lot of confidence into the team. “Things aren’t going to come to us this year, so we have to work extra hard,” she said. “We have to find ourselves, and learn what we do best.”
Even though Salo and Britton are the youngest players for BKW, Galvin says that they need to be leaders. Also, Galvin said that Martin did a wonderful job keeping the team calm during last Friday’s hectic game.
“They have to be the women,” Galvin added. “Sometimes, having all those seniors, they just know what to do. This group is very young, and they ask a lot of questions; that’s the difference. Last year, anybody could have coached them; just put a ball out there. This time, I have to dust off my shoes.”
When BKW led Mekeel in the first quarter, it was the first lead the team had gained this season. The Bulldogs’ players aren’t amazing shooters, and they did make a few impressive shots, but they might have to find other ways to win.
Last Friday, persistence was the key to victory.
“They’re not as talented, so I have to coach them to where they want to be,” Galvin said. “They need to hustle like they did tonight; it was unbelievable.”
Leading up to the WAC opener at Mekeel, Galvin said, Harvey stopped by at a practice to talk to the BKW players about “what it takes,” and the girls listened closely; they had watched what Harvey did for the team in the past.
“We have to keep working hard, that’s the key,” Galvin said. “It’s not about talent or ability; it’s about hard work. Sometimes, they take shortcuts, and they know that.”
If Galvin can prevent the BKW players from ever taking shortcuts, then, he said, the team can be very good.