Kylie Kinser attempts a free throw in the third quarter against West Lincoln-Broadwell. Photo curtesy of Mike Weaver.

CARROLLTON - From high school to college to the pros, it’s common for athletes to say that losing in a championship is among the worst defeats they’ve endured in their careers.

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Although this is middle school, Kylie Kinser and her teammates on the Carrollton (St. John’s) Redbirds suffered a 51-15 loss in the biggest game of their young lives in the IESA 1A 7th grade girls basketball state championship. The final score was 51-15 against the West Lincoln-Broadwell Wolverines.

Kinser scored 13 of the 15 points, which she’s proud of, but was much more concerned about the overall grand scheme of things for the Redbirds. In the end, Kinser was thrilled to be able to compete with her team on the biggest stage they could’ve played in.

“This is the biggest atmosphere of all, and I love it. It’s fun to be in a loud gym with tons of fans. It was awesome and so much fun to be with the team. The atmosphere is so happy and fun here. It’s a great place to be,” Kinser said. “Now I know what it feels like to lose like this. I want to come back here [next year] and dominate.”

The Redbirds had a mixture of sixth and seventh graders on their team and Kinser is in seventh grade. She currently stands at five-foot-seven ½, which is exceedingly tall for a 13-year-old girl.

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Through the three the games St. John’s played in the state tournament, Kinser led the Redbirds in scoring averaging 11.3 per game. Throughout the season she averaged 17 points a game, and when she played with the 8th graders, she poured in 10 points a game.

“She’s a great athlete, and everyone knows she’s a greater person. She is a very smart and kind kid. Her whole heart was into this game, and it didn’t show how good she is,” St. John’s head coach Robin Klingler said of Kinser after the state finals.” Sometimes she doesn’t actually know how good she really is. Maybe sometimes she limits herself, but that’s part of being a seventh grader.”

“She’s got a good frame and a wonderful jump-shot. She can’t wait to come tell me that she did this many push-ups or this many sit-ups to make herself stronger,” Klingler said. “She’s got a bright future ahead of her.”

The last time St. John’s had been to a state basketball tournament was in 2003 when the Redbirds defeated Martinsville to win the 8th grade state championship. None of the current players were even born yet. In 2017 they finished with the most wins in school history for a single season and now hold the record at 21-2.

“We played pretty strong all year. Robin would say I was the leading scorer and they look to me as a team leader, but we couldn’t have done it without anybody else,” Kinser said. “We couldn’t have done it without Ella [Stumpf] handling the ball and all of our guards, and Sophie’s [Pohlman] offensive rebounds. It takes a team to get here.”

“We haven’t been here in a long time, so it was great to come here as seventh graders,” Kinser said. “It was awesome; I’m so happy.”

St. John's head coach Robin Klingler schemes with her players during a timeout. Photo curtesy of Mike Weaver.

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