Lady Knights Win CresCom Bank Holiday Championship
St. Francis’ size too much for Lake Highland Prep, claims CresCom tourney title
BY MAX MCKINNON
Size versus speed.
That’s what it came down to in the CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational title game Tuesday.
Behind the play of 6-foot-1 forwards Jala Jordan and Maya Dodson, and 6-foot-3 junior Kasiyahn Kushkituah, St. Francis’ (Ga.) physical prowess proved too much as the Knights took down Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) 77-66 at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center to claim the tournament title.
“We stuck to the gameplan. We wanted to go inside, we wanted to penetrate and attack the rim and get our big girls going early for us,” said St. Francis coach Aisha Kennedy, whose team is nationally ranked (No. 6) in the MaxPreps.com Xcellent Top 25 poll. “They did work well, stayed focused and knocked down some free throws; that’s our gameplan.”
Jordan – the tournament’s Most Valuable Player – led the way with 21 points and four rebounds, Dodson contributed 19 points and 11 rebounds and Kushkituah had six points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. The Knights also used a flurry from beyond the arc to put away the Highlanders, hitting nine 3-pointers. St. Francis hit just nine combined treys in their first three games of the tournament.
“I can’t take anything away from [St. Francis], they played well and they shot the ball better,” said Highlanders coach Al Honor, whose team is ranked No. 1 in the state of Florida, according to MaxPreps.com. “I hadn’t seen them shoot the ball that well the entire tournament. But I don’t want to take anything away from them. We played a really good game and fought, but just came up a little short.”
The Knights (12-0) led Lake Highland Prep by just two points at the break but turned up the intensity after halftime to pull away, using a huge 21-4 run to start the second stanza.
“When they went on that run, it hurt,” Honor said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes and that’s part of the game. … I’m just really proud of my girls. They kept fighting and they didn’t quit. When you’re playing a team like this, you have to be on your A-game and clicking on all cylinders. We missed some free throws and some layups in crunch time, and you can’t do that in these types of games.”
The Highlanders (13-1) have nobody 6-feet or taller; three players are 5-foot-10 and one is 5-foot-9. It left Lake Highland Prep at a huge disadvantage.
“It just hurts in the rebounding and we gave up some second-chance opportunities that you can’t give up,” Honor said of the size difference. “You’ve got to put a body on them and that size hurts you, especially when you get back in the game. So it was tough.”
But while the Highlanders lack length, they surely make up with their agility and shooting skills.
“Their team has really good speed and some shooters,” Kennedy said of Lake Highland Prep. “They’re a physical team, and that’s just going to prepare us when we get back. We know we have a big height advantage, that’s our strength. We know we have to key in and get our girls focused and using that.”
Koi Love paced the Highlanders with 17 points and 11 rebounds, Tyra Cox added 15 points and seven rebounds, and Alabama signee Jordan Lewis – who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player – contributed 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Honor said he knows how much playing in a tournament of the CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational’s caliber will help his team down the stretch.
“Just staying fundamentally sound,” Honor said of what his team will take from it’s experience in Myrtle Beach. “You’re close, but you’re not quite there and you have to put in that extra work to help us improve. Back home, we have our own tournaments, playoffs and things like that. We’ll try to go back home and try to win [a state title] and this is a great building block for us to do that. It’s been awesome.”
Kennedy also noted the benefits of playing in the tournament, and feels her team is in good position to defend the Georgia Class A-Private state championship it won last year.
“I felt like the girls played well against a really good team; the best team we played so far,” she said. “So, that was really good. We learned a lot of things, played as a team and played a full game. That’s what we’ve been trying to work on and the girls did that today and that got us a championship. Now we need to keep it going.”
▪ LAKE HIGHLAND PREP (66): Jiselle Havas 6, Koi Love 17, Rachel Jablonski 8, Jordan Lewis 12, Tyra Cox 15, Zanoria Cruz 8.
▪ ST. FRANCIS (77): Nichel Tampa 13, Taja Cummings 9, Kasiyahn Kushkituah 6, Jala Jordan 21, Maya Dodson 19, Kennedy Powell 8, Kori McDaniels 1.
▪ Halftime: St. Francis 77-66. 3-point goals: LHP 3 (Jablonski 2, Cox 1), SF 9 (Jordan 5, Powell 2, Tampa 1, Cummings 1). Team fouls: LHP 19, SF 18. Fouled out: Cox (LHP). Technical fouls: None.
▪ Records: Lake Highland Prep 13-1, St. Francis 12-0.