CEDAR RAPIDS — This time was not for a trip to the regional final. Nevertheless, No. 6 Cedar Rapids Xavier welcomed Cedar Rapids Kennedy back to Ron Thillen Gymnasium Tuesday night with both squads in dire need of a victory.
Freshman McKenna Andersen came off the bench and led all scorers with 14 points as Xavier snapped a four-game losing skid by holding off Kennedy, 60-51, in an MVC non-divisional game.
“It felt good,” Andersen said. “My teammates did a great job getting me the ball.”
It was the first meeting between the 42nd Street rivals since the Saints eliminated the Cougars in last year’s Class 4A regional semifinal. Kennedy moved to the new Class 5A this season, and Xavier remained in 4A.
Xavier (7-6, 5-2) got off to a sloppy start against Kennedy’s defensive pressure, resulting in five turnovers and just 10 first-quarter points. Xavier settled down in the second, relying on the outside-inside combination of Andersen and 6-foot-1 senior center Ashley Stulken, who scored 10 of her 12 points in the opening half. The duo combined for Xavier’s final 13 first-half points, turning a 22-20 deficit into a 33-26 halftime lead. Andersen drained four three-pointers in the first half, including a frantic heave less than 10 seconds before the buzzer.
“I knew where she was going to be, and she knew where I was going to be,” Andersen said of the first-half chemistry with Stulken.
Kennedy ramped up the defensive pressure on Andersen and chipped away from the foul line. A layup by junior guard Jordan Holmes gave Kennedy a 36-35 lead with 3:37 remaining in the third quarter.
Trailing 38-37 in the third quarter, the Saints used a 12-0 run that bled into the fourth quarter, punctuated by a fantastic 360-degree layup in the paint by Kayla Armstrong off a long fast-break pass from point guard Sarah Dickes.
Paige Hendrickson scored 13 points for the Cougars (6-4, 3-2 MVC), losers of four of their last five games.