Lawrence High played on, and sophomore Jodie Cochrane was the surprising playmaker for the Lions in the championship game of the Firebird Winter Classic on Saturday at Free State High.
Less than 24 hours after her father apparently committed suicide, Cochrane came off the bench, scored a team-high 11 points and had a team-high six rebounds for LHS in a 71-41 loss to Hutchinson in a game that served as an escape for the Lions.
"Last night when I went to her house, she said she really wanted for us to play and that she wanted to play," LHS coach Kristin Mallory said. "I wasn't sure she'd be able to, but she loves basketball and that's her way of coping."
Cochrane first entered the contest with 3:06 left in the first quarter to a loud ovation from the approximately 800 fans in attendance. Every basket and rebound by Cochrane was cheered before she left the game to a standing ovation with 54.5 seconds remaining. She received hugs from her coach and teammates when she reached the bench.
Until 10 a.m. Saturday, the championship game was in doubt. Players, coaches, school administrators and the high school's crisis team met at the high school for a couple of hours before the decision to play was made.
"The individuals involved really wanted us to play the game, so that made it an easy decision," Mallory said. "They've shown they want to be together as a team and really be there for her.
"I don't think you can really have your head completely in the game in a situation like we were. The girls played with a lot of heart. They almost wanted it too bad at times."
Cochrane, primarily the point guard on the junior varsity team, played a season-high 24 minutes against the Salt Hawks. The 5-foot-7 player connected on three three-point attempts and both of her free throws.
"She stepped up and played well," Mallory said. "It made it easy for me to keep her in. She did a great job. The girls were pushing for her and the crowd was pushing for her. She's somebody in the future that will play a real important role in our program."
LHS sophomore forward Cherrale Ricks, an all-tournament selection, was glad the game was played.
"We decided as a team we should continue to play because that's what Jodie would want and her father would want," Ricks said. "It got a lot of things off your mind."
Hutchinson, 12-1 and ranked No. 4 in the Class 6A coaches' poll, never trailed the Lions. The Salt Hawks bolted to a 10-1 lead and had a 17-4 lead after one quarter. LHS didn't make its first field goal until a Mandy Amyx stick-back with 22 seconds left in the first period.
Hutch, which shot 58.8 percent from the field and capitalized on 28 LHS turnovers, led 39-11 at halftime and by as many as 36 points early in the fourth quarter.
Christian Hood, a 6-foot-4 junior center, scored a game-high 22 points on 11-for-11 shooting for Hutch, last year's Class 6A state runner-up, and was named the tournament's most valuable player.
"She's 6-4, if not more," Mallory said. "She has very long arms. She's a great player and created a lot of problems."
Sophomore Amanda McCue, a 5-7 forward, was also a load inside, scoring 18 points.
"Our guards do a great job getting it in there," Hutchinson coach Tom Clark said.
Clark, uncertain the game would be played until four hours before tipoff, empathized with the LHS team.
"Nobody likes being a situation we were in today, but the game goes on," Clark said. "Our hearts go out to the girl."
LHS (5-9) entered the tournament with a five-game losing streak and went 2-1 at the Firebird Classic.
"When we came to the tournament, we thought we were going to win two games," Ricks said. "A lot of people thought we weren't going to, especially the first one (against No. 2 seed and defending tourney champ Kansas City Schlagle), but we did."
Next for LHS is a home game Tuesday against Shawnee Mission North. Tipoff is 7 p.m.
Notes: Lawrence's Ricks; Kansas City Schlagle's Tamara Cobbins; Olathe North's Tamara Whitaker; KC Sumner's Carlai Moore; Free State's Lauren Wright; and Hutchinson's Sammie Knapic were named to the all-tournament team. ... LHS parents are setting up a bank account/trust fund in the Cochrane's family name at Intrust Bank. For information, call Trish DeBiasse at 749-3197.