Kylee Shook’s long wait to play in her first varsity game for Mesa Ridge finally came to an end Wednesday.
It was definitely worth the wait in an all-around stellar high school debut.
The touted 6-foot-4 freshman came off the bench and scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in the second half, grabbed 18 rebounds and swatted away seven shots in leading the Grizzlies to a 57-39 win over Doherty in the season opener for both teams in the Spartan gym.
“I was pretty nervous before the game,” Shook said. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Once we got to the second quarter, we got warmed up. I just thank the team for getting me the ball. I just took the opportunity with it.”
Mesa Ridge never trailed, but Doherty, seconds from the 5A semifinals last year until Legacy rallied on a last-second shot, closed the gap to 28-25 with 4:40 left in the third quarter on free throws by Cheyenne Sisneros and Jordan Nelson.
Shook ended a quick 6-0 run on a three-point play, starting with an offensive rebound that led to a short follow then adding the free throw, extending the lead to 34-25.
The Spartans, led by junior Josie Major's 11 points, got no closer than six points the rest of the way.
“A lot of us weren’t hitting shots,” said Doherty senior guard Angela Vigil, who struggled in a two-point effort. “This is a whole new team. We lost seven seniors, and getting used to a new team is hard. We’ll get used to each other, and we’ll be fine. It’s only the first game.”
Gabby Purnell added 10 points for the Grizzlies, who advanced to the second round of last season’s 4A state tournament. Her 3-pointer from the right wing started the scoring after nearly three minutes of missed jumpers and turnovers.
Then once Shook entered the game and got into the flow, it was evident that the game plan was to get her the ball often, then let her work on defense and clean the glass.
“Having her in the post is a huge bonus for us,” Purnell said. “It opens everything up. Her getting those rebounds, blocks and points, and her ability to shoot from the elbow, is tremendous for all of us. This is a great way to get things started.”
It wasn’t the opener Doherty had scripted. The Spartans scored in single digits in the first and third quarters and were outscored 35-20 in the second half. And a team that averaged 86 percent from the free-throw line last season struggled there as well on Wednesday, missing 9 of their first 11 and ending the night just 9-for-20.
Still, it wasn’t enough to discourage second-year head coach Pat McKiernan.
“I thought our chemistry was good, and I can’t knock our effort, but we just couldn’t hit any shots,” McKiernan said. “I’m not upset where we are. Angela had the worst game I’ve ever seen her play, but I told her that no one wants to peak in November, to get it out of the way. The nice thing about this part of the season is that there’s always tomorrow.”