The Incarnate Word Academy Red Knights rolled through the district and recorded their ninth consecutive championship.
The Red Knights won the Class 4 District 7 played at Fort Zumwalt East with a 61-30 win over St. Charles.
Incarnate Word faces St. Dominic (19-6) in a sectional game at Francis Howell Central. Tip-off is at 6 p.m. Tuesday (March 6).
“We have not played them in several years,” Incarnate Word coach Dan Rolfes said about the Crusaders. “We used to play them in the past. We have not played them in the last four or five years.”
Rolfes said his team will have to play well to advance to the quarterfinals.
“They start five seniors and have two seniors coming off the bench,” Rolfes said about St. Dominic. “They play really, really hard and they like to mix up their defenses. They play a lot of zone. If we’re not shooting well, that won’t be good.”
Incarnate Word headed into district winning 11 of its final 12 regular season games. The lone road loss was to Parkway North.
“I thought our kids were playing well before the district,” Rolfes said. “We’ve been playing hard. So that’s good to see. I could see a little fire in their eyes. This what we needed at this time of the year.
“You want momentum going into the postseason.”
Incarnate opened with a 68-16 win over Fort Zumwalt East. Rolfes said he did not know if that set a school record for fewest points allowed in a district.
He did not opening-round games tend to be one-sides at times.
“Usually the first-round game, history shows, have not been overly tough,” Rolfes said.
In facing St. Charles for the district title, the Red Knights were facing a familiar foe.
“We’ve played them in the last four years,” Rolfes said.
Last year, the Red Knights defeated the Pirates 64-42 for the district crown. In 2016, Incarnate Word stopped St. Charles 61-41 in the quarterfinals. In 2015, the Red Knights won 69-30 in the quarterfinals.
Rolfes said his girls were not overconfident before playing the Pirates.
“Every year it seems like you pay attention to who’s winning and who’s losing at this time of the year,” Rolfes said. “There’s always a team that surprises you. Parkway North who beat us a couple of week ago lost in their district championship game. So you never know.
“Seeing Parkway North lose, that opened our kid’s eyes a lot. You can’t take anybody for granted in the postseason.”
The Red Knights did not take the Pirates for granted.
Incarnate Word jumped out to an 18-0 lead in the game and never looked back.
“In the district final, it was good to see our kids compete hard in that game,” Rolfes said. “They jumped out to a strong start. That sent a message right from the tip. We put it away early.”
That meant Rolfes could clear his bench in the game.
“Everybody got to play,” Rolfes said. “Ten of our 11 kids scored. For sure, that’s good. From the starters to the last kid coming off the bench, they all put in equal time and work hard in practice.”
Even though the majority of the Red Knights have played on a district winner, they still showed emotion after the victory.
“Obviously, they’re excited,” Rolfes said. “They’ve been around long enough to know we’ve got work to do. This district championship was another step in our season.
“For sure, it never gets old winning a district but the ultimate goal it the state championship. We are now one step closer to that goal.”
Heading into the quarterfinal, Rolfes likes what his squad showed in winning this district.
“I think the kids really came out and played extremely hard and that’s what we want,” Rolfes said. “We tried to set the tone of the game right from the tip. We used our athleticism and our speed to try and cause havoc.”
For Rolfes, that makes 16 district championships.
“I’m really proud of the success of our program,” Rolfes said. “It shows you the success our program has had. We’re not just good every once in a while.”
What Rolfes likes, too, is the balance this team has.
“There is kind of one thing about our team and that’s when you look at our overall stats, we don’t have one person with gaudy numbers,” Rolfes said. “We’ve got a pretty well balanced team. We have different kids that can hurt you. That’s a big reason for our success this season.”
To get past St. Dominic, Rolfes said his team needs to follow the formula it has been using.
“We’ve got to shoot the ball well,” Rolfes said. “We’ve got to take care of the basketball. Similar to the district championship, we have to set the tone early. We need to use our athleticism and be strong.”