By Derek Martin (KMAland)
One of the most dominant girls’ basketball teams in KMAland history will be a member of the 2018-19 KMA Sports Hall of Fame class. The undefeated and dominant Tarkio state champion team of 1999 is the third of four state championship teams to be honored with this year’s class. Coached by Doug Kingery and assisted by Casey Martin, the 32-0 Indians ran through their schedule and eventually capped it with a dominant 55-38 win over Crest Ridge in the Class 1 state championship.
“They were an extremely hard working group of girls,” Coach Kingery told KMA Sports. “We had practices down to the minute, and it seemed like nightly the girls as a whole would go up to the Tarkio College gym to shoot more.”
Senior Jamie Johnson averaged 20.2 points per game and was a dead-eye shooter, canning 64 3-pointers on 48.5 percent shooting for the season. Fellow All-State selection and sophomore Ashley Poptanycz averaged 14.6 points and over seven rebounds per contest.
“Jamie shot an hour and 15 minutes, an hour and a half, 300 days a week,” Kingery said of his step-daughter. “The only days she took off was Sunday. Her mother rebounded thousands of basketballs. Ashley was an overall gifted gal. She just beamed with athleticism and was a force inside and outside.”
Additional starters on the team included Jamie Knierim (9.7 PPG), Beth Pearson (5.9 PPG) and Mendy Martin (5.0 PPG). The other members of the squad: Cassia Alberti, Megan Gebhards, Galadriel Gratton, Andrea Murphy, Jen Peregrine, Charity Tubbs, Mary Wehmann and Ambera Wennihan.
The Indians outscored their opponents by over 22 points per game. They met their toughest match in the state semifinal against Newburg. “With about a minute thirty-five to go, we were behind by five,” Kingery remembers. “The ball just wasn’t going in the hole. I remember calling a timeout, and our point guard Jamie Knierim came over and pointed to everybody. She goes, ‘We’re not losing this ballgame!’ We went out, there was a conventional three-point play, then we stole a pass and hit a couple of free throws. We ended up winning that game by one, and I think it was Jamie that lit the fire.”
Tarkio would go on to a 55-38 win over Crest Ridge in the state championship game, and Coach Kingery says it may have been inspired by a classic movie.
“My wife and I took a DVD player down to Columbia,” he said. “We brought the movie Hoosiers. We set that up in our room. All of the girls came in, and we watched the movie. You couldn’t have heard a pin drop. When it was over, they all got up and went straight to their rooms.”
Tarkio, to be honored as part of an induction ceremony November 20, is the third of four state champion teams in the 2018-19 class. They join the 1996-97 Creston boys and 1997-98 Lenox girls as honored basketball teams in the KMA Sports Hall of Fame.