Feb. 27 basketball game recap: Ladue 58 Kirkwood 48

Districts games are a big deal in the high school sports world, as they can be a school’s prime chance to punch their ticket to a state championship game and become the best team in the state of Missouri. There was a massive defensive basketball showdown between Kirkwood and Ladue over the weekend as the winner determined who would face Chaminade in the next round and this game did not disappoint. 

Right from the tip, the game was tightly contested, as both teams’ defenses thrived keeping the score low in the first quarter. While Ladue led 11-6 with 2:30 remaining, Kirkwood went on a 5-0 scoring run to end the first, highlighted by a miraculous putback layup by Dillon Stewart, senior, to tie the game 11-11 as time expired. Kirkwood went into the break with momentum but was still struggling in the offensive department as Ladue was making them settle for long range jump shots.  

“We tried to just focus on the defensive end of the floor and just kind of focus in on making it harder for them to score.” Kannon Nesslage, senior, said.

Will Lee, senior, chases down a Ladue player and blocks the layup attempt. (Lawrence Mckee)

Will Lee, senior, followed Kannon Nesslage’s example with a massive block on Ladue’s Jack Steinbach, sophomore, on a fast break attempt early in the 2nd quarter. Ladue led going into halftime 23-19 but some key dunks by Bryce Simpson, senior, and Lee kept Kirkwood within striking distance. Lee was one of the bright spots throughout the game for Kirkwood finishing with six points, four rebounds, and a couple of assists.

     The offenses picked it up in the 2nd half on both sides as they were constantly trading buckets. Nesslage stepped up big time during this stretch as he helped Kirkwood tie the game 32-32 on a three-pointer, along with giving them the lead on a dunk to make it 34-32. Ladue however, came firing back as they regained the lead late in the 3rd quarter and started to drain three-pointers early on in the 4th quarter which helped them expand their lead. As Ladue kept pouring it on offensively, they did a strong job keeping Kirkwood out of the paint and continued making them settle for three-pointers. Ladue ended up walking out of the David Holley Gym. with a 58-48 win.

Bryce Simpson, senior, throws down a nasty two hand jam. (Lawrence Mckee)

“Today we didn’t come in focused,” Lee said. “I feel like as a team we were thinking since we’ve beaten them twice already, they were just gonna roll over and they came out and wanted it more than we did.”

Kirkwood was the favorite as they had beaten Ladue twice in the regular season and finished the regular season with a record of 18-5 going into their matchup. Ladue proved in this game though that you can’t count them out; they’ve also had success in districts before, as they won last season’s Class 4 District Championship. Kirkwood improved this season and took a big step forward, winning six more games than they did the previous year — but the team is losing seven seniors. When asked what he thought this year’s team’s best quality was, Jimmy McKinney, head varsity basketball coach, lauded the team’s willingness to persevere. 

“Buying into the situation,” McKinney said. “That’s what they really did well.”