MONON — Her friend. Her frontcourt-mate. Her catcher.
Kinsey Westerhouse knows Caitlyn Conn’s biggest contribution to the North White basketball teams is rebounding, and defense. It is what she and freshman Tessa Robertson have focused on since last week, when Conn took leave of the team to fight Acute Promyelocytic leukemia.
“We want to show up for rebounds,” Westerhouse said. “Caitlyn’s big thing is getting rebounds, and we wanted to show up — not replace her, but pick up for her part.”
The pair combined for five rebounds Tuesday against West Central, but their biggest contribution during the Midwest Conference contest was on the scoreboard.
Westerhouse and Robertson combined for 17 points in the 52-28 victory. Westerhouse netted nine, Robertson netted eight and senior Marissa Benitez chipped in nine as that trio nearly outscored the Trojans.
On a night when members of both teams wore orange and yellow — orange for leukemia awareness, yellow because it is Conn’s favorite color — and wrote #CaitStrong on their shoes, North White (6-2, 2-0) held West Central scoreless in the first eight minutes and to seven points in the opening half.
“We’ve talked about it throughout the week (after we found out), and we just want to win for her throughout the week,” Westerhouse said. “(Our goal) was get to 2-0 in the conference, and continue to play strong throughout the week.”
Lauren Annis, Lynzi Heimlich and Abigale Spry each contributed six points. Heimlich (seven), Annis (five) and Taylor VanWinkle (five) combined for 17 of the team’s 28 rebounds.
“I thought we came out nice, did some good things defensively,” Vikings head coach Bryan Heimlich said of West Central’s scoreless first quarter. “There are still some things I think we need to work on, get better at. Stance, and being in the right position at times. Sometimes we gamble a little too much and it will come back to get us. We still did some real positive things out there.”
While it forced 23 turnovers and garnered 15 steals, North White committed nine of its 14 turnovers in the opening stanza. It also committed six in the first five minutes of the third quarter. Both stretches curtailed the home team from increasing its lead.
“We still had stretches where — it’s about once a game, we have a stretch at the end of the first quarter or start of second where we have three, four turnovers in a row,” Heimlich said. “And we don’t need them, and a lot of them are unforced. We’ve got to cut those out.”
West Central closed within 37-19 after sinking three 3-pointers on four possessions, and hit six 3s in the game.
Donation containers were made available at the concession stand and ticket table, as were order forms for clothing through the booster club. Donations were taken throughout the week at Vikings home events. Order forms are available throughout the next couple weeks, and are due to the North White Booster Club by Dec. 20. There is also a Facebook fundraiser at https://www.facebook.com/donate/446974145987584/10221185946179680/. All proceeds go to the Conn family.
“It’s just a tough situation. … She plays hard all the time. You saw it in softball, in volleyball, in basketball,” Heimlich said. “She’s a real tough competitor, and she’ll fight this battle the same way she fights on the court.
“She’s a very positive kid, and there are a lot of people supporting her.”