By Mark Janssen
Let's just say that K-State owns the Commerce Bank Classic.
First, it has been its own little invitational for the past 16 years.
Secondly, the Wildcats have won 13 of the 16 event titles, posting a 29-3 record in the process.
"I'm excited and thrilled about this win," said coach Deb Patterson of the game, and the championship. "I think we competed very hard and played tough. Unlike last night (a 67-44 win over Grambling State), I think we leave the floor knowing we battled as hard as we're capable of. It's just a terrific win against a great program in St. John's."
The offensive hero came from the most unlikely of Wildcats as Mariah White, scoreless in an 18-18 first half, owned the second half with a 17-point effort, which included her first career 3-pointer. It was a bucket that Patterson called, "A really big shot."
A 1.3-point per game scorer last year, and 0-for-1 shooter in the first half, White was 3-of-6 in the second half, plus 8-of-11 from the foul line. The 5-foot-7 sophomore from Midwest City, Okla., also controlled nine rebounds, handed out four assists and had two steals in her 35 minutes of play.
"Really, I had no idea what I was doing," said White, whose career-high had been nine points last year. "I finally looked up at the scoreboard toward the end of the game and I just said, 'Wow.' I was surprised. I was just out there having fun, but I had no idea how many points I had scored."
Tied at the half at 18-all, the teams remained tied at 20-, 22-, 25- and 27-27, and, it was never more than a one possession game until the 7:59 mark when Jalana Childs hit consecutive hoops to make it 40-36.
Most pleasing to Patterson in the second half was "... our resolve not to break. I really think it was more our discipline and our ability to compete in possessions when the game was close."
Along with White starring throughout the second half, it was a 3-ball from the right wing by Taelor Karr with 2:35 remaining that put the 'Cats up by nine, 51-42, and solidified the win. Patterson called the trey "... a great emotional and competitive boost for us."
K-State had balanced scoring with White's 17, Branshea Brown with 14, Brittany Chambers with 12 and Jalana Childs with 10.
STAR OF THE GAME: Mariah White had 17 points with coach Deb Patterson saying, "Mariah was just so aggressive, and physical and very focused today. I think she did a good job of helping us be an assertive basketball team on the offensive end of the floor. In addition to what you see offensively on the stat sheet, she really played well defensively, which has been consistent of her."
Of her own game, White said, "Things just came to me. Whatever we would do, something would open up and I would go for it."
ALL-TOURNEY TEAM: KSU's Jalana Childs was the tourney's MVP and was joined on the all-tournament team by White, plus Da'Shena Stevens and Nadirah McKenith of St. John's, and Brandy Bang of Marist.
In Friday's win over Grambling State, Childs scored 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
TKO: With 6:19 to go in the game, Brittany Chambers hit the Bramlage floor with her face with the result being a lost tooth, and later fainting once she went to the bench.
"She's in a lot of pain and she is going to have her head scanned," said Patterson. "Her lip is about as thick as my thumb and she lost a tooth."
Chambers did come out of the locker room and join the team in the postgame awards ceremony.
• K-State jumped to a 14-4 lead at the 12:16 mark, but scored only four more points in the first half. St. John's scored just four points in the first 9:08, but went on a 14-4 tear of its own to tie the game at the half, 18-18.
• St. John's won the board game, 44-35, which helped in allowing the team to take 70 offensive shots to K-State's 46. St. John's was 0-of-7 from 3-point range.
UP NEXT: K-State, 2-0, will host Indiana State on Wednesday at 7 p.m., and entertain Western Illinois next Sunday starting at 2.