Maleeka Kynard speeds up the floor in the first quarter. In the fourth quarter such a drive led to the winning basket.
If you were keeping track of style points, last night's much-anticipated City League girls basketball opener between preseason favorite Waite and host Start basically laid an egg.
But in the departments of hustle and effort, this war of attrition had plenty, then mixed in a dose of drama in the closing seconds.
That was provided by speedy sophomore point guard Maleeka Kynard, who drove nearly the length of the court down the left sideline to score the game-winning layup with 15 seconds remaining in Start's 49-48 victory before a crowd of more than 2,000.
"I was like, "I have to make this basket, and hopefully get an and-one,'•" Kynard said. "I didn't get the and-one, but I scored the basket.
"We just kept our heads and played hard. We knew they were going to get runs and we were going to get runs, so we had to make sure to keep our composure and come right back at 'em."
Waite (0-1, 0-1 CL) had a last chance to retake the lead, but the Indians lost the handle inside after an entry pass in the closing seconds, and the final horn sounded while the teams were scrambling for a loose ball in the lane.
"That was a battle both ways and we just kept competing," Start coach Bob Brown said. "I don't think we played well and I don't think Waite played well.
"I'll give them credit, they jumped back on us and took a five-point lead with two minutes to go. We could've caved in, and we didn't. We kept at 'em, and I'm happy right now."
Kynard was one of three Spartans to score 13 points, matching the outputs of her frontcourt teammates, Yolanda Richardson and Azia Bishop, who also added 11 and nine rebounds, respectively, for Start (2-0, 1-0).
Waite's 6-3 All-Ohio junior star, Natasha Howard, had a poor season debut after playing just seven first-half minutes and drawing her third foul 1:10 into the second quarter. She went 4-for-18 from the field for 10 points, and grabbed just five rebounds.
The Indians got nine points from junior guard Miriah Haynes and eight points and six boards from senior forward Shantel Perkins.
As for those style points, the teams combined for 68 turnovers (41 by Start), and less than 50 percent free throw shooting (Start 13 of 28, Waite 11 of 21). Waite shot just 28 percent (18 of 64) from the field to Start's 43 percent (18 of 42).
"There were a lot of turnovers and a lot of missed shots and, oh man, 50 percent from the free throw line," Waite coach Manny May said. "I asked my kids, 'Did we shoot free throws in practice?'
"We didn't execute like we needed to in the stretch on offense or defense. Then, when we did cause turnovers, we turned the ball right back over by not making good decisions with the basketball. We were too hyped. Even when the bench came in, they were too hyped. We weren't ready to settle down and play."
The Indians were called for 17 first-half fouls, including three each on Howard, Amanda Gregory and Haynes. Yet the Spartans' turnover bug enabled them to hold just a 29-23 lead at halftime.
Waite climbed back slowly after the break, pulling even 41-41 on Perkins' putback with 5:06 to play. The Indians continued on a 13-2 run that netted a 46-41 edge on a Howard bucket with 3:35 left, and still led 48-43 after Stephanie Keaton's 17-footer with 1:48 remaining.
But Start outscored them 6-0 from there.
Contact Steve Junga at: