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By A.J. JANKOWSKI
Daily News Sports Editor
After failing to connect on a pair of high-arching 3-pointers early in the first quarter Saturday against Petersburg, Jayley Taylor decided it would be better to put her head down and drive to the hoop.
The 5-7 guard went on a 9-0 first-half run on her own, and finished with a game-high 18 points to help the Ketchikan High School girls basketball team rebound from a lackadaisical performance Friday to defeat the Lady Vikings, 61-38.
"When (the 3-pointers) don't fall, I don't want to keep humiliating myself," joked Taylor after the game. "But I prefer to drive. I love to drive. When I shoot, even if they're terrible, it forces the defender to put a hand up, and it opens me up to drive more."
And drive she did.
The junior was held off the scoresheet for the first six minutes of the game before making two layups to end the first quarter. She then scored the first five points of the second to give the Lady Kings a 13-point lead over an opponent they struggled mightily to separate from Friday.
"We were all kind of embarrassed from (Friday) night," said Taylor, whose team won the turnover-riddled game 47-35. "Our biggest problem was that we were maybe a little too overly confident. (Saturday), we decided to wake up, and take it seriously. And it felt different on the court, too. It felt like we were able to play our game more."
Taylor finished with nine in the second, and after sitting out most of the third, returned in the fourth to score five, including a three-point play in which she converted a layup while being fouled by Petersburg’s Kyla Willis.
"I like the way (Taylor) attacked, I really did," said Kayhi head coach Kelly Smith. "I thought there were a couple small things she could have done. Her mid-range jump shot is really solid, and she tends to forget about it. It's either (shoot a 3) or she drives all the way to the hoop."
She wasn’t the only one driving hard to the rim, either. On the Lady Kings’ next possession after Taylor’s and-1, Bayley Lindgren took a similar path to the net, and scored nearly the exact same three-point play to put Kayhi up 51-34.
Lindgren finished with 11, and Alexis Biggerstaff notched all five of her points in the final frame, as the Lady Kings outscored the Lady Vikings 23-11 in the fourth to close out the game — something Kayhi couldn’t do early in the year.
"We never really were in this situation at all earlier in the year," Taylor said. "I think we're starting to learn to slow down and take care of (the ball). We're getting it, or at least we're trying to get it."
Junior Brooke Simmons scored 10, and senior Lizzie Carson came off the bench to score seven, including four in the first quarter to help Kayhi claim an early 14-6 lead.
"Liz came in ready," Smith said. "Offensively, I feel good when she has the ball, because she's very smart. The foot speed isn't there in the press, so the last few games I've been doing a lot of offense-defense (subbing) with her and Alexis (Crellin)."
Crellin, who missed Friday’s game with a finger injury Friday, more than held up her end of the bargain defensively Saturday. The junior speedster was a nuisance in the Petersburg back-court, and played a role in several of the Lady Vikings’ 29 turnovers.
"Crellin changes a whole world of the amount of pressure we can put on a team when she comes in the game,"?said Smith, who played a total of 12 players. "I saw some things from some people off the bench that I really liked."
Ruby Brock led Petersburg in scoring with 13 points, as Petersburg’s top-four scorers — Brock, Kylie Wallace (12 points), Adanna Kvernvik (5), and Kyla Willis (4) — were all freshmen.
"Petersburg is an aggressive team," Smith said. "They make you uncomfortable because they play so hard."
If the Lady Vikings’ youth was part of the reason why Kayhi overlooked them Friday, the Lady Kings were ready for the scrappy squad Saturday.
"They're not scared of anything," said Taylor of Petersburg. "They'll drive to the basketball and bulldoze through. They're not scared, and they fly around."
The Lady Vikings’ aggressiveness got them to the free-throw line 20 times, but Kayhi limited them to just 13 field goals and outrebounded Petersburg, 30-23. The Lady Kings led by 10 at halftime, 29-19, and were ahead 38-27 heading into the final quarter.
Rounding out the scoring for Kayhi were Courtney Kemble (4 points), Crellin (2), Eliah Anderson (2), and Mikayla Brown-Harrison (2). After losing its first three games of the season at a tournament in Sitka, the Lady Kings are above .500 — 6-5 — for the first time this season.
Smith said he’s more concerned about the process than the results, and in the short term, that meant vastly improving on the 28 turnovers his team committed in Friday’s victory.
When hearing Saturday’s turnover total stood at 15, the coach said, "That means trouble.
"For every one turnover over 15, that's a minute of torture during practice," said Smith, who explained the "torture" is sprints, burpees and "a combination of not fun things.
"So that's 13 from (Friday). I told them if they kept it under 10, I would take it away."
Kayhi finished just above 10, but perhaps the team can plead leniency because, according to Taylor, the message was received loud and clear.
"When you had the ball, you learned to value the possession a lot more, and not to just throw it around," she said. "We were being a lot smarter with it this time."