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Kaukauna girls leave Kimberly with resounding victory

Greg Bates

Brian Roebke photo — Kaukauna sophomore Taryn Christopher reaches for a loose ball during Kaukauna’s win over Kimberly last week.
When the Kimberly and Kaukauna girls’ basketball teams met on Dec. 17, the Papermakers left with a resounding 65-48 victory
A lot has changed since that matchup. 
Entering Tuesday’s rematch between the two teams, Kaukauna had gone 10-1 since that showdown with its rival, while Kimberly had a 6-4 record.
Kaukauna had some players sick 6½ weeks ago, but more importantly, the young Ghosts have come together since that contest.
“We’re just a more mature team,” Kaukauna coach Joe Russom said. “The kids have really grown up, the first part of the season up until Christmas. We’re young. We have sophomores and we have predominantly a freshman, sophomore, a junior, a couple seniors. But it’s not the same as last year and those kids last year really ate up a lot of minutes, so our kids had to learn how to win, how to finish games, how to play together. The only way to do that was to throw them in the fire.”
The result was Kaukauna dictated the flow of the game this time around and held Kimberly’s offense in check as the Ghosts pulled off a 58-38 victory in Fox Valley Association play.
Sophomore guard Alexa Kinas has watched her team improve on both ends of the court since that loss right before Christmas.
“I think just our offense, our spacing, our flow of the game, our defense have changed,” Kinas said. “I think we’ve just gotten a whole lot of aggressiveness — we turned everything up.”
In the first matchup, Kimberly’s top two scorers, Kenzie Drout and Emma Kilpatrick, combined for 31 points. This time around, Kaukauna’s defense held its own as Drout put in 18 points, but Kilpatrick — who battled foul trouble all game — had just two points. 
Kimberly was held to 38 points, which is 14 points under its season average and the second lowest scoring outing of the year.
“I think basically if you can contain Drout and you can contain Kilpatrick, two very good players, it’s a good night,” Russom said. “The last game, I made the comment to a reporter that somebody has to step up and hit big shots for them, it was (Kate) McGinnis. She hit a couple today, but not like last time. We did a much better job preparing for them, taking out some of their tendencies and limiting a very good offensive and defensive team.” 
Kaukauna (15-5, 10-4 FVA) had a promising start, going up 12-3 after seven points from Savanna Robinson. Kimberly (12-7, 8-5) got a three-pointer from freshman McGinnis to pull within six, 22-16. 
However, the Ghosts ended the half on a 10-5 run as Kinas leaked out on the break to get some uncontested layups to put her team up, 32-21. 
Kaukauna scored the first nine points out of half to extend its run to 19-5. During that spurt, Kilpatrick was on the bench for seven minutes. 
“She picked up a foul right away in the second half and that really kind of took us out of what we wanted to do,” Kimberly coach Troy Cullen said. “We got her back in there, but the game was out of reach at that point.” 
Kimberly could only cut its deficit to 16 points in the second half as Kaukauna kept its foot on the gas. 
Kinas scored a game-high 24 points, tallying 16 of those in the opening half. Russom knows he is coaching a special player who just keeps improving each game.
“Alexa’s still learning the game,” Russom said. “From a physical standpoint, she’s a freak. She can do things that I have never had a kid be able to do with the basketball, but she’s still learning the game in terms of her own abilities in situations and so forth. There’s no doubt she’s going to play at the D-1 level, it’s just a question of where. For her, what we’re trying to do is to get her to see a little bit bigger picture and once she does, she’s going to take off and she’s going to be unstoppable in this conference.” 
Robinson added 12 points for Kaukauna. McGinnis chipped in nine for Kimberly.
With Kaukauna scoring its 11th win in the past 12 games after starting out the season 4-4, Russom is hoping his players push that momentum into the postseason in a few weeks.
“It was funny, at the beginning of the year I talked to them about having a vision toward state and that there was a possibility, but we had to focus on getting better in little increments,” Russom said. “So yesterday in practice, we emphasized post-ups, because we were getting away from it. Tonight, Taryn (Christopher) and Addy (Addison Baumgart) and a couple other kids did a great job of getting the ball inside. It’s those little things where we can adapt in the flow of the game and kids see it and that’s really what these kids are learning on the fly through this season.
“I really like us. I think we’re going to be a tough out in our sectional, and that’s all I can ask for is those kids battling every night.”