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Friday, February 24, 2017
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Metro Sports Report

No. 1 Eagles lose Ajak to torn ACL

Kirkwood Coach Kim Muhl is confident his team can make a good run in the postseason tournament next month, but the top-ranked Eagles will have to do it without Awal Ajak.

Ajak, a 6-foot freshman from Des Moines, confirmed Wednesday night that she suffered a torn ACL in her left knee in a win over Southwestern on Feb. 11 and has been lost for the season. Her surgery is scheduled for Monday.

Kirkwood collected another blowout Wednesday with an 85-37 victory over Southeastern Community College at Johnson Hall, but Muhl knows the Eagles will face stiff competition if they reach the national tournament and compete for the national title.

Kirkwood (27-0, 11-0) has not been pushed by too many teams this season, but Muhl is confident they'll respond to the challenge when  the time comes and kick into a higher gear, even without Ajak.

"With this group, I think they can," he said. "They've got a pretty strong mental approach to the game. They know what's at stake.

"They bought in, they guard and they really pass the ball to each other."

Ajak, a key reserve on a deep and talented club, was averaging 8.1 points and 3.7 rebounds when she got hurt. She watched Wednesday's game in street clothes with her crutches nearby.

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Xavier's victory leaves Lilly in tears

Tom Lilly has won 522 games and four state titles during his 32 years as a girls basketball coach, but his emotional well still runs deep  after all that time.

Lilly dissolved in tears Tuesday night after the sixth-ranked Xavier  Saints trimmed 13th-ranked Waverly-Shell Rock, 42-38, in the regional  finals to earn a trip to the Class 4A state tournament.

Lilly hugged long-time assistant coach and pal Stephanie Potts after the buzzer sounded in the intense ballgame and he needed his trademark blue towel to wipe away the tears.

"It's always a special moment," Lilly said after getting his emotions  under control. "I just felt our seniors have given us so much this year.

"I knew that at the end of it, somebody was going to be extremely  disappointed because it was very hard-fought, it was back and forth, neither team was going to given an inch.

"And we just happened to prevail with a 14-year-old," he said with a  wry smile. That's pretty amazing on how that all works out."

Freshman Caitlynn Daniels is actually 15 now, but the rookie made two of the biggest plays in the game in the final minute with the state  berth on the line.

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Saints earn date with No. 7 Mustangs

MOUNT VERNON - Bryce Schulte faced an unusual situation last month when he was replaced in Xavier's starting lineup by his younger brother.

Bryce, a senior and star football player, was dispatched to the bench in favor of Quinn, a sophomore and a kid who grew up battling his  older brothers in the back yard.

A less confident athlete might have sulked and moped about the situation, but not Bryce Schulte.

Schulte was asked Monday night if there have been any fights in their house about who gets to start.

"No, not over starting," he said, smiling. "Maybe some other things, but not over that."

Both Schultes were in the starting lineup Monday night when the Saints whipped DeWitt Central, 70-30, in the opening round of the Class 3A  playoffs at Mount Vernon High School.

Quinn Schulte has started the last 10 games after replacing his brother in the lineup. Bryce Schulte, who started the first 12 games of the season, has returned to the starting lineup the last two games  with Jackson Joens sidelined while trying to fully recover from a concussion.

The Schultes combined for 17 points Monday as Xavier (11-11) earned a date with seventh-ranked Mount Vernon (17-5) in the district finals  Thursday at 7 p.m. at Mount Vernon.

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Harp plays sweet music for Eagles

The Kirkwood Eagles slapped adversity in the face again Saturday afternoon.

If you've followed the Kirkwood men's basketball team this season, you know it's nothing new.

The ninth-ranked Eagles dressed only eight players due to medical  issues and still managed to knock off DMACC, 83-63, in a key ICCAC  conference game at Johnson Hall.

Earlier this year, the Eagles had to borrow a few players from the Kirkwood baseball team when five of their own players were suspended  for two games by the NJCAA.

The Eagles are now 3-0 with a short-handed roster.

"They've been faced with a lot of different adversity during this  year," said Kirkwood Coach Bryan Petersen. "Basically our message to  the team was, 'We've done this before, so we have to find a way and  not make excuses.'

"I thought the guys did a really nice job, coming out and setting the  tone the first five minutes."

Byron Harp poured in 26 points for the Eagles and padded his stat line with six assists, five rebounds, five 3-pointers and one only turnover  in 39 minutes.

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Wilson nets 20 as No. 1 Eagles roll

Kirkwood Coach Kim Muhl went on a recruiting trip to the Chicago suburbs last year to scout a player at Rich East High School who ended  up going to Monroe College in New York.

It turned out to be a fruitful trip, however, because Muhl landed a  talented point guard from Rich East instead.

Hello, Tay Tay Wilson.

Wilson made three 3-pointers tossed in 20 points Saturday to help the  top-ranked Eagles gun down the DMACC Bears, 82-57, in an ICCAC  Conference game at Johnson Hall.

"We were actually recruiting another kid from her high school," Muhl  explained. "I liked Tay. She hit shots. Point guards that can hit  shots are fun."

Wilson made it a fun day for Kirkwood as the Eagles raised their  impeccable records to 26-0 overall and 10-0 in the league with four  games left in the regular season.

Wilson, a 5-foot-6 freshman, is averaging just 6.5 points and 3.2  assists for Kirkwood, but don't be fooled by those modest numbers.  She's the floor general on a deep and balanced club where the points,  rebounds and assists are spread around.

Wilson can score 20 points and help her club win a ballgame, or she  can score no points and help her team.

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