Cedar Rapids Kennedy played its first girls basketball game of the Tony Vis era with heavy hearts.
And big hearts.
The Cougars rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to defeat Cedar Falls, 51-35, in their opener Tuesday. To beat a quality Mississippi Valley Conference on the road is an achievement in itself. To do so under trying circumstances, even more so.
“It was a tough day,” Vis said, referring to the death of Drew Wall — a Kennedy student who succeumbed to cancer less than 24 hours before the Cougars got in the bus to travel to Cedar Falls. “For the girls to play the way they did in the second half, it was pretty inspirational as part of the grieving process.”
Kennedy trailed 21-14 at halftime, then outscored the Tigers by a 37-14 margin in the second half.
“At the end of the third quarter, we really caught fire, and we just kept hitting,” said Vis, who was hired in May to succeed Dennis Roloff. “Jordan Holmes hit a big 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter to put us up four.”
Madi Meier took five shots Tuesday, and made them all — including four from 3-point distance. Holmes added three treys and tallied 11 points. Morgan Martin, a transfer from Quincy (Ill.) Notre Dame, added 11 points and nine rebounds.
“They caught us by surprise early with a diamond-and-one on Morgan,” Vis said. “We tried to figure out what to do to get her open, and also to get the rest of the team involved.”
The Cougars’ normal coming-out-of-the-huddle chant is “1-2-3, Cougars.” They added a twist to it Tuesday:
“One-2-3 … 4-Drew.”
Vis and his family came to Kennedy from Harlan. They come at a time in which the Mississippi Valley Conference is remarkably balanced.
“It’s going to be unbelievably tough,” he said. “There are no breathers in this league. Every night is going to be tough.”
The Cougars host Dubuque Wahlert on Friday.
JAN. 5 SET FOR RIVALRY SATURDAY
The ninth installment of Rivalry Saturday has been scheduled for Jan. 5 at Cornell College in Mount Vernon.
Event director Scot Moenck, the coach at Maquoketa Valley, released the docket of five games Thursday.
Mediapolis will play Mid-Prairie, Solon will face Clear Creek Amana, Mount Vernon will meet Iowa City Regina, Center Point-Urbana will tangle with Union and Bellevue will play Northeast.
Moenck said a sixth game is in the works, but hasn’t been confirmed as of yet. A schedule has not been set.
The event will return to the U.S. Cellular Center next season upon its renovation.
WAUKON’S SNITKER FILLING IT UP
Waukon’s Daneisha Snitker has begun her senior season on a scoring blitz.
Snitker leads the state at 32.0 points per game. She opened with a 31-point performance in the Indians’ victory over South Winneshiek, then followed that with 33 points in a triumph over Oelwein.
She is shooting 63.2 percent from the field, making 24 of 38 shots, is 15 of 23 from the free throw line and averages 9.0 rebounds per game.
Waukon is 2-0, and Gene Klinge — the state’s all-time leader in victories — is within 12 of the 1,000-win mark for his career heading into Thursday’s game at Charles City.
Other area girls who have played multiple games and are averaging at least 20 points per game are UNI recruit Madison Weekly of Benton Community (22.0 ppg), Iowa signee Ally Disterhoft of Iowa City West (21.0 ppg), Allie Njus of Turkey Valley (20.7 ppg), Nicole Miller of North Linn (20.0 ppg) and Kelly Trimble of West Branch (20.0 ppg).