Prep Girls Basketball

Say Yes to the Hess: Senior guard comes through in big moments for Clark County

Clark County senior guard Drenda Hess, left, and Carissa Bevans. right, attempt to get the ball from Monroe City’s Lauren Youngblood during the Class 3 district championship game. Hess has made a number of critical plays on both offense and defense in helping the Indians reach the Class 3 state tournament in Springfield, Mo. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 8, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Mar. 8, 2018 9:10 am

KAHOKA, Mo. -- When fans of the Clark County girls basketball team look back at this season's run to the Class 3 state tournament, a handful of moments will be the first ones they'll discuss.

Abby Brown's game-tying 3-pointer and Carissa Bevans' game-winning 3-pointer against Monroe City in the district final ... Maggie Schutte's 18-footer to put the Indians ahead in the final minute against Lutheran North in the quarterfinal game ... Aubry Boulware's five 3-pointers in the second quarter of a late-season victory over Macon ... all of them were watershed moments during the Indians' season.

Senior Drenda Hess has had her share of moments as well, but they're not as easily found looking at the scorebook.

She limited Megan Stone to just 11 points in the district semifinals against Palmyra. Stone had averaged nearly 17 points in her four previous games.

In the district championship game, Monroe City's Delanie Okenfuss threw a pass to teammate Jada Summers in the middle of the lane for what would have been a chance for a game-winning shot in the final seconds. Hess dove for the ball and knocked it away to preserve the victory.

Against full-court pressure from Lutheran North in the quarterfinal game, Schutte was trying to inbound the ball to Bevans with 14 seconds left in overtime. However, when she tossed the ball over Bevans' head, Hess raced from the opposite free throw line to recover the loose ball and prevent a turnover. Hess was fouled and made two free throws to seal the victory.

"I knew if they got the ball, they were going to score," Hess said. "I said to myself, ‘That can't happen,' so I went up there as fast as I could and grabbed it.

"I guess I'm there whenever things happen."

No kidding.

"You look at the last four or five games, and she finds herself around the ball in a big moment," Indians coach John Weaver said. "Either she's shutting someone down or slapping the ball away from Jada, she's just been a huge part of what we're doing."

It hasn't always been that way.

Weaver coached the seventh-grade team during his first year in Kahoka, and he remembers wondering if Hess would ever be a varsity contributor.

"She was our backup point guard," he said. "She was little, and I wasn't sure if she had a future."

Even as recently as last season, Hess wasn't a big contributor when the Indians went 26-3 and reached the Class 3 quarterfinals.

"She's struggled in the past with confidence issues," Weaver said. "She was our eighth man last year. She was really hungry to be a part of (last) season, but she was not to the level she wanted to be. When those seniors graduated last year, she knew she was going to be counted on, and she's really relished that."

Weaver said Hess' athleticism and length make her the ideal candidate to guard the opposing team's best scorer. She'll draw the assignment of Elizabeth Lutz, who has signed to play at Western Illinois Univeristy, in Friday's semifinal game against California.

"Her role is to handle the ball and play good defense," Weaver said. "Drenda can't wait to guard (Lutz). She averages 20 points per game, and Drenda knows if she holds her to 12 or 14 points, she's done her job."

Hess only averages four points per game, but she's even had her late-game moments offensively.

Her two free throws with 10 seconds left sealed the Lutheran North victory, and she contributed three baskets to help Clark County stay close when Brown was in foul trouble against Bowling Green in the sectional.

Her biggest offensive contribution came in the district final against Monroe City. The Panthers dared Hess to shoot the ball from 3-point range, and though she had made only two 3-pointers all season, she made two in the third quarter.

"I always tell her, ‘You shoot if you're open,'" Bevans said after the Lutheran North game. "We need you."

"(Monroe City) was begging her to shoot it," Weaver said. "I was in her face at halftime. I told her, ‘You're going to hit a big one because we need you to,' and then she goes out and hits two huge ones."

After the Lutheran North victory, Weaver asked Hess how she felt when she went to the line with Clark County clinging to a two-point lead in overtime.

"She said she wasn't sure about the second one," he said, "but she said, ‘I knew I'd make the first one.'

"To watch her confidence grow has been awesome."