“Illinois State!” Central Springs head coach B.J. Fessler calls out.
Senior Kaylee Parks has the ball at the top left edge of the arc. She watches as senior Morgan Kelley swings to the bottom-left outer left edge, but she’s not open. Kelley runs straight across to the bottom right and Parks passes the ball to junior Hannah Ausenhus on the inside.
Kelley kicks out to the top right edge of the arc, wide open. Ausenhus finds her.
She lobs a high shot, which drops straight down from its peak through the net.
“You better find out where Morgan is on the court because she knows how to fill it up out there,” Fessler said.
Parks has the aggressive drive-up-the middle game, but Kelley is the 3-point shooter. Kelley leads the team this season with 42 3-pointers.
But during Tuesday night’s victory over St. Ansgar, it wasn’t about how many: it was about when.
Kelley’s first 3-pointer came when the Panthers were looking to close the first quarter when St. Ansgar went on a six-point run to tie it up 12-12.
Kelley’s 3-pointer made it 15-12, which was followed by a Parks buzzer-beating layup for 17-12.
It was Kelley’s second and final 3-pointer that came in clutch.
The Panthers had scored the majority of their points in the second half from the line, making way for the Saints to edge a lead until the final 50 seconds.
Kelley shot a high ball from just shy of the baseline on the right, her back facing the St. Ansgar crowd. It bounced on the rim, then trickled in reluctantly.
“I thought it was two minutes left instead of 50 seconds,” Kelley said. “It didn’t phase me really. I actually didn’t think the ball was going to go in, it was way right, but it bounced up and went in. So, it was a good thing I guess.”
It’s hard to ignore Parks averaging 23 points per game, but Kelley’s role adds an element of surprise to the Panthers when Parks isn’t open.
Fessler says that Kelley adds even more on the defensive side: a sense of hustle and aggression.
Kelley has 56 steals this season, the second most on the team. Against St. Ansgar, Kelley grabbed a team-high of three steals.
One came in the first quarter, where she ripped the ball from senior Elizabeth Jenkins’ grasp, and drove down the court for a layup, which, she missed. Parks was able to tap it in.
It’s the kind of defensive aggression Kelley had on the volleyball court, where she fell into a new position as libero for the Panthers this senior season. She’ll do anything to get the ball.
Kelley stood confidently in the postgame with her hands on her hips. It’s her senior year and the Panthers have never made it this far, but she feels like they can go further.
“People might think that we’re a small team,” Kelley said. “And that we may not be fast, but we surprise a lot of people because we do hustle the floor a lot.”
And to any team that plays the Panthers next: they better know where Kelley is.