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GOSHEN – Kasey Wernert’s role usually isn’t that of shot blocker for Oldham County’s girls basketball team.
In fact, the junior said she hadn’t blocked a shot all season. That changed Friday night when Wernert made the biggest defensive play of the game.
OC’s point guard blocked a 3-point attempt by South Oldham’s Sydney Jones with less than 40 seconds left in a game the Lady Colonels were leading 45-43. The super-sized swat preserved OC’s lead and the Lady Colonels went on to take the District 29 championship with a 50-43 win over the Lady Dragons at North Oldham.
“What’s funny about that, I told Kasey all year she’s not a shot blocker,” OC coach Jace Bryant said. “Tonight after the game she said, ‘Coach Bryant, I am a shot blocker.’”
The Lady Dragons had gone on a 9-0 run to cut what was a 45-34 Lady Colonel lead to 45-43.
Jones leaked out to the left corner and appeared to have an open look at a 3-pointer that, if good, would’ve given South the lead.
But Wernert stuck a hand out and deflected the shot.
“Coach told me, ‘Do not let (Jones) shoot,’” Wernert said. “So I just stayed on her and when she got it, I didn’t let her shoot.”
A scramble ensued for the loose ball after the shot and a jump ball was called, with South (9-15) holding the possession arrow. But Lady Dragon guard Erin Wilson threw the ball away to OC’s Kylee Nuernberger, and the Lady Colonels (15-9) held on for the win.
Wernert was named to the all-district tournament team. She scored five points and tallied four rebounds and three assists in Friday’s win.
The junior has been an unsung hero for OC this season, averaging 4.5 assists per game. Star senior guard Ashley McMurtrey has been the one grabbing the attention, averaging 24 points per game.
But without Wernert, the Lady Colonels wouldn’t have won Friday, her coach said.
“Kasey made some good plays when we needed them,” Bryant said.
South holds back on the attack
South had a chance to do some damage in the paint Friday while OC forwards Jenna Kirk and Abigail Stewart battled foul trouble.
But the Lady Dragons instead settled for jump shots – too many for coach Christy Higdon’s liking. As a result South scored just three points in the second quarter and followed that up with a nine-point third quarter.
“We weren’t attacking like we needed to attack,” Higdon said. “We kept telling them to attack the rim, because we had Stewart and Kirk on the bench. We did everything we needed to do, we just didn’t follow through.”
Bryant credited sophomore forward Erin Smekrud, who averaged 0.9 points in nine games this year, for coming off the bench in the second quarter and playing solid defensively.
“We had Erin Smekrud, who’s a sophomore, come in and make some great plays,” Bryant said. “She got a couple of rebounds. She got a couple of deflections. Erin did a great job.”
Another clutch Nuernberger
Kylee Nuernberger certainly has the genes to be a standout athlete.
Her father, Kai Nuernberger, was a former basketball player on the German national team. Her older brother Sean, graduated from OC in December and is on scholarship at Ohio State, where he’ll likely be starting kicker for the Buckeye football team this fall.
Kylee, a freshman guard for the Lady Colonels, got her big chance Friday night.
Bryant left the freshman on the floor late in a tense contest, and she rewarded him by stealing the ball and hitting two free throws that put OC up 47-43 with 34 seconds to play.
“Kylee’s attitude has changed the last two or three weeks,” Bryant said. “She likes to be on the floor.
“She had a lot of growing up to do this year and we had a lot of growing pains with her. But for a freshman to want to play in that atmosphere and to play really well in that atmosphere shows a lot of guts.”