The Incarnate Word Academy Red Knights are champions again.
The Red Knights claimed first place in the 44th annual Visitation Christmas Tournament with a 9-30 win over the third-seeded Parkway Central Colts.
That was the second championship in the Visitation tourney in the last three yearsfor the Red Knights. Edwardsville won the title last season with a 61-57 triumph over Incarnate in last year’s title game. It was Incarnate Word Academy’s 13th tourney title overall.
“The reason I like playing in the tournament is we feel like Visitation does a great job getting the best teams in the area to play in it,” Incarnate Word coach Dan Rolfes said. “To have that opportunity as a program to play in it is great. Parkway Central was new to the tournament this year. Paul Stoecklas their AD (athletic director) does a good job of keeping top local talented teams coming in to play.”
The Red Knights were coming off a trip to Hawaii where they played in the Iolani Classic in Honolulu in mid-December. Incarnate Word played three games and lost 64-49 to Pinewood Panthers. of Los Altos, California. Incarnate Word defeated Kalani Falcons, of Honolulu, 70-42 and Clovis West Golden Eagles, of Fresno, California, 56-47.
“We went for three games in Hawaii and we played some very good teams,” Rolfes said. “We are a NIKE Elite team and they always invite three Elite teams from the states to go there and play. It was our second time there. We went in 2010. It’s a great experience. You get that opportunity to go and travel and play teams from all over the country.
“For sure, for it to be in Hawaii makes it extra speical. We lost tge championship games but we played well in that tournament. I think by that final game fatigue set in. It’s a long travel to get there — 12 hours. We played three days in a row. I think the time difference got to us a little bit. We played a really good team in the championship game but all the teams they invited are really good. To be able to do these types of things for our kids is great.”
Senior Kiki Britzmann said the trip was wonderful.
“Hawaii was the best high school tournament I’ve been to, which not a lot of teams get to say the went to Hawaii so it was a real blessing,” Britzmann said. “The competition was excellent, and it really helped to improve our teams skills and pace. We beat some talented teams and advanced to the finals, but fell short. The tourney upped out teams playing, and was well worth the travel.”
The girls got to have some fun besides playing basketball.
“All of our games were at 6:30 p.m. so we would have walkthrough in the morning and having a couple hours to do what we wanted,” Britzmann said. “Being from cornfield Missouri, almost all of us girls decided to go to the beach. Therefore, everyday was spent tanning on the beach, and swimming in the ocean. We ate at a couple local restaurants that were pretty cool.”
Then the Red Knights came home to play in the Visitation tourney. But it’s one they like to play in.
“The girls really enjoy playing in this tournament. There’s a lot of spectataors that come out and watch,” Rolfes said. “They enjoy playing in front of the crowds. It’s a great environment for girls basketball. There’s a ton of tradition with the tournament. It has quality competition, lots of fans and the time of year it is makes it all come together. We love coming to play in it.”
Incarnate Word opened with a 66-27 win over Ursuline.
“That was a tough game,” Rolfes said. “We just had gotteb back from Hawaii. We took exams. There was fatigue. I’m glad we got throguh it.”
In the quarterfinals, the Red Knights earned a 65-53 win over Whitfield.
“That’s always a tough game. It’s the day after Christmas,” Rolfes said. “It’s a tough one for sure physically and mentally. You’ve been sitting around all day celebrating Christmas with your family. That’s a tough game for everybody I think.”
Although Whitfied does not have Missouri recruit senior winger Aijha Blackwell, who has transferred, the Warriors still played tough, Rolfes said.
“Whitfield is still pretty good even without Blackwell,” Rolfes said. “They still have a lot of talent. It will take them a little bit of time to adjust. When you lose a player of that quality, it changes thigns. You have different people playing different spots.”
Incarate Word met defending Class 5 champion Kirkwood in a semfinal matchup and scored a 58-31 victory.
“We’ve done that before, play a class champion when we were a state champion,” Rolfes said. “We had played them in the Webster finals when they won state before. That’s what I like about this tournament. You have high quality teams. Whitfield went to state in their class.”
Rolfes said his girls knew what was at stake with Kirkwood.
“Honestly, we look at it like we have to beat them to get to the finals. We know we have to win three games in a row and play good teams in a row to get to the championship game,” Rolfes said. “That’s the focus. Get to the championship game.”
Rolfes liked how well the Red Knights played defense against Kirkwood.
“Our defensive effort was great,” Rolfes said. “We were not that great offensively I think. I loved that as part of our team. We like to play defense.”
The Red Knights met Parkway Central for title. The Colts knocked off Edwardsville to reach the championship game.
“We have not played them recently,” Rolfes said. “They got a really nice team. A quality team. Congrats to them in their first year in the tournament to make it to the finals. Anytime you’ll get to play for a championship it’s a special thing for your team.
“We play for championships. We knew what we needed to do and that was to defend well in order to win.”
The Red Knights did that in posting a 59-30 victory.
“We just slowly pulled away every quarter,” Rolfes said. “We didn’t blow them out. By the end, we had built up a prety good lead.
They were definitely excited to bring back a championship to school. It means a lot to them. We had a great team effort in the tournament.
“What I like about this team is that we don’t rely on one person to carry us. In all four of the games, we had four players in double figures.”
Parkway Central coach Brian Guilfoyle said he was impressed with how well the Red Knights played.
“They executed offensively from the very beginning. They scored 20 in the first quarter and we never really got into a flow on offense,” Guilfoyle said. “I tip my cap to them and their coaching. They played good pressure defense on our guards and their posts were the best we faced all year. They are a very good team that is arguably the most successful girls program ever in the state of Missouri. I would say they are the best team in the area.”
Rikki Woltman, a 6-foot-4-inch senior, was named the most valuable player of the tournament.
“She was really solid defensively for us,” Rolfes said. “She did a great job. She conrolled the boards for us and scored. She got points in the paint. She was very deserving to be named MVP.”
Woltman has signed to play in college at Purdue University.
Seniors Marisa Warren and Kiki Britzmann were named to the all tournament team.
The Red Knights return to action Saturday (Jan. 5) when they play in the St. Joseph’s Academy Shootout. They will play Parkway Central at 5:30 p.m.
“We turn around and play them again,” Rolfes said about Parkway Central. “We’re looking forward to the game. In late January, we to Louisville to play in a shootout.”