Collier shines in return to Fleming Fieldhouse

Napheesa Collier had the opportunity to see some old friends Tuesday night.

And dominate a basketball game.

Collier finished a rebound short of a triple-double in her return to Fleming Fieldhouse, totaling 28 points, 11 steals and nine boards to lead the Incarnate Word Academy Red Knights to an 80-18 victory against the Jefferson City Lady Jays.

“I was really nervous and kind of excited to be back at my old school,” Collier, a sophomore who transferred after an all-state season at Jefferson City to Incarnate Word last summer. “It was different playing against my friends, but I was having fun.”

The Red Knights, now 24-0, are enjoying having Collier on the floor.

“Napheesa has fit in from Day One,” Incarnate Word coach Dan Rolfes said. “Our players knew about her, had seen her, were excited. But you never know.

“But she has come in and worked her tail off and our kids respect her for that because she is the best player we have. She works as hard as anybody and that helps the rest of our kids to see that.”

Collier has been a key piece to an Incarnate Word team ranked No. 1 in Class 4 and definitely the class of Missouri high school girls basketball.

“No disrespect to our friends up at Rock Bridge, but that’s the best team in the state,” Jefferson City coach Shane Meyer said. “You could take that team to play some small colleges around the state and it would win.”

There might be some ways a team will stop the Red Knights from winning a state championship next month. But most of them would be frowned upon by law enforcement.

“The wins and losses during the regular season don’t mean much,” Rolfes said. “We’re just trying to get better for what we hope are six wins in the postseason.”

III

Collier won the opening tap for the Red Knights. The game was effectively over soon after.

She hit a layup on the possession to score the first of Incarnate Word’s 27 unanswered points to start the game.Jefferson City missed a shot on the ensuing possession, then turned it over the next 13 times it had the ball.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Meyer said. “They were guarding us hard and they’re very good at it. We struggle against pressure and that’s one thing on our to-do list in the offseason.”

The Lady Jays next shot attempt came with two minutes left in the first quarter. It was blocked.

Jefferson City got on the board with 1:18 to go on a layup by Megan Foster as Incarnate Word took a 31-6 lead into the second quarter. Not that there were many to be had, but Jefferson City did not get a rebound in the opening quarter.

“From where we are as a program right now and where they are, this result is probably what should happen,” Meyer said. “We gave good effort, it’s hard to see that when you look at the scoreboard, but our kids hung in there.”

Collier finished the first quarter with 14 points, seven steals, two rebounds and a blocked shot. Rolfes said he is surprised by something Collier does nearly every day, either in practice or during a game,.

“The passes she catches, the steals that she makes, the blocked shots,” he said. “She just flies out of nowhere to get a steal or a block. She can do it all.

“We were going to be good, with or without her. But she puts us at a whole different level.”

Things didn’t get any better in the second quarter for Jefferson City. The Lady Jays were 0-of-10 from the field and missed both their free-throw attempts to go scoreless as the Red Knights stretched their advantage to 45-6 at the half.

The Lady Jays didn’t score their next basket until 1:55 remained in the third quarter, a span of more than 14 minutes between buckets.

Collier had 10 points in the third quarter as the Red Knights took a 74-11 advantage into the final period. She didn’t play in the fourth quarter, which obviously had a running clock.

“It was a typical Napheesa game,” Meyer said.

Meyer said there are no hard feelings toward Collier.

“She’s such a great kid, she’s not a person you can be mad at,” he said. “The kids were excited because they had a chance to see her from a friendship standpoint.”

Rolfes said he can sympathize with Meyer and the Lady Jays program.

“I feel for Shane, I can’t imagine losing a player like Napheesa,” he said. “It’s got to be hard on him and the program because she was just a freshman and you expect here to be a big part of what you’re doing for the next three years.

“But we feel very fortunate to have her on our team.”

Collier said she’s having fun at her new school and with her new teammates.

“I really like it,” she said. “The team has really accepted me.”

Megan Foster, a freshman, finished with 12 points for Jefferson City.

“Megan found some spots to get things done on the offensive end,” Meyer said. “She has a very bright future. We’ve put a lot on her shoulders this year and she’s handled it.”

Jefferson City (2-22) wraps up the regular season Tuesday at Parkway South.

In Tuesday’s JV game, Incarnate Word took a 39-28 decision from Jefferson City.

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