The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Clinton

January 12, 2013

Kokjohn's basketball sends Irish past Rebels

CLINTON — Prince of Peace led Big East Conference-leading Northeast 51-46 with 1:45 to play Friday night in girls basketball action.

But after Northeast 6-foot, 1-inch junior Breanne Butler scored the next eight points, the Irish weren’t feeling quite as confident.

“Oh, man, I was going to have a heart attack,” Prince of Peace coach Maggie Furlong said.

“I was a little worried,” Prince of Peace junior Jackie Kokjohn said.

Prince of Peace (6-7, 4-5 conference) missed a shot, but then forced a turnover to get the ball back. Northeast’s Morgan McAleer forced a tie-up after Prince of Peace inbounded the ball to give the Rebels the ball back. The Rebels inbounded the ball, but a scramble ensued and Kokjohn found the ball in her hands on the right wing with time running out.

“Karli (Atkinson) tipped it out and got it Megan (Mulholland), who got it to me,” Kokjohn said. “It went in. I knew we were running out of time and I needed to get that last basket. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if we didn’t get that steal as a team.”

Prince of Peace senior Julia Isenhour said, “Jackie is clutch.”

Kokjohn’s runner went in with 1.2 seconds left, and Northeast called a timeout but could not get a shot off, giving the Irish a 53-52 victory.

“I was really excited that we beat Northeast,” Kokjohn said. “They’ve been a challenge for us in the past.”

Without Butler sparking a big comeback, Kokjohn’s heroics would not have been needed.

“We made a really nice comeback,” Northeast coach Charles Jargo said. “We really worked hard on our defense. They helped us out with some turnovers, but we played well. We concentrated on getting the ball inside to Breanne. She made some huge shots for us.”

Northeast (9-3, 7-2) allowed a big comeback first. The Rebels led 29-22 to start the third quarter and gave up the first seven points.

“We were working the ball and not making stupid turnovers, rebounding, doing those fundamentals,” Kokjohn said.

Atkinson scored on a putback, Mulholland had a three-point play and the Irish made two free throws to tie the game. Northeast, which is still tied for the conference lead, went on a 5-0 run to take a 34-29 lead.

Then the Irish scored 17 of the next 20 points to establish a 46-37 lead. Six players scored during that run, led by five points from Atkinson.

“We knew we had to be more aggressive in the second half,” Furlong said. “We talked about playing more aggressive defense. We did a more aggressive press. Our defense is really what makes or breaks us. Tonight we played awesome defense, and our press was what helped us get back into the game.”

Isenhour was also more aggressive on the inside. She grabbed seven of her game-high 13 rebounds in the third quarter, including one that turned into a putback bucket.

“I had four rebounds in the first half, and I knew that I needed more,” Isenhour said. “I set a goal for myself to get four per quarter, and I just went for it.”

Northeast did not score for the first 4:28 of the quarter and did not hit a field goal in the final two minutes.

“We did not execute our offense whatsoever,” Jargo said. “We were a little flat, a little lethargic. We were up seven, and I don’t know if we thought it was just going to keep happening. We couldn’t seem to get anything going. We’ve got the flu bug and some girls are not feeling the best. I don’t know if that was part of it, but we didn’t have any energy.”

The game was close for the first 12 minutes and was 17-17 at that point. But that’s when Addie Oberman started to take over for the Rebels.

She went on a personal 8-0 run — with a driving layup and two 3-pointers — to put some distance between the teams. Oberman led all scorers with 24 points.

“They didn’t play the best, but were able to stay calm and not let it get away from them,” Furlong said of her team in the second quarter. “The game could have been blown wide open at that point. By keeping it to seven — (Mulholland) hit a big 3 at the end of the quarter — it kept us right in there.”

Isenhour, who scored 10 of her 12 points in the first half, was a big reason the Irish were able to stay within striking distance.

“It was about time I started making them,” Isenhour said. “I missed so many in the past week. ... All that work that Ms. Furlong has been making us do paid off.”

The Rebels need to rebound quickly as they host Midland this afternoon.

“We have to come out and show some spunk and some good, tough play,” Jargo said. “It’s hard to come back after a loss, there’s no doubt. But we have to come back and really show what we’re made of.”

For Prince of Peace, it’s a three-game winning streak capped by a win over one of the top teams in the conference.

“It was good for us to get this win and get some confidence built for later in the season,” Isenhour said.

“We’ve been working hard in practice,” Kokjohn said. “All break we were working hard. We picked up the pace and knew we had to get going to make up for (a 3-7 start).”

Furlong said the time over break to focus on improving without having to worry about games was beneficial to her team, which has only four seniors.

“We spent a lot of time over break talking about making better decisions,” she said.

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