THE CHASE

McKinney 17 points away from passing Epps’ all-time scoring record

WCHS junior Taylor McKinney (4) puts up a 3-pointer against Hampton-Dumont on Friday in Hampton. With 879 career points, she needs just 16 more to tie and 17 to pass Kayleigh Epps’ all-time Lynx record of 895 points. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Kayleigh Epps is reflective as she speaks evenly about her prep career that can only be described as the most acclaimed in the history of 5-player girls’ basketball at Webster City.

The jack of all trades forward was as feisty as they come back in the day. She was aggressive. She admits she could be mean. But there was a method to her madness, so to speak, because oftentimes she won the psychological battle before the clock even started.

Epps wanted to win. Period. And if she hurt someone’s feelings along the way, oh well.

“If people thought I was mean I could have really cared less,” Epps, now 33, says as she thinks back to her Lynx career that ran from 2001-04. “I was there to play basketball and win the game.”

Epps wasn’t necessarily a dominating figure offensively, but she knew how to score. The corner jump shot was one of her favorites, and turning steals into layups was her forte. It all led to a school-record 895 career points over her three-year varsity career, a mark that has stood the test of times over the past 15 years.

In this 2002 DFJ file photo, Kayleigh Epps (left) puts up a shot against Clear Lake inside Jeff Gym in Webster City. Epps currently holds the Lynx career records for points, field goals and steals. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Until now.

WCHS junior guard Taylor McKinney is just 17 points away from passing Epps and taking over the prestigious record.

McKinney, who averages 16.7 points per game, will attempt to attain the record with Epps in attendance on Thursday when the Lynx host Clarion-Goldfield-Dows at 6 p.m. It may also happen on Friday when WCHS hits the road to face Iowa Falls-Alden, the school that has employed Epps as a physical education teacher since she graduated from Iowa Wesleyan University in 2009.

McKinney was just two years old the last time Epps wore a Lynx uniform, but she’s well aware of Epps’ greatness. McKinney calls it an achievement just to be mentioned in the same breath.

“It’s honestly the biggest honor to even come close to her record,” McKinney said. “Her having the record for so long and how great of a player she was, to be where I’m at right now is just crazy. But I couldn’t have reached this point without my coaches and teammates. They mean everything.”

Webster City guard Taylor McKinney (4) threads a pass through the defense against Hampton-Dumont on Friday. McKinney averages 16.7 points per game entering Thursday’s clash with CGD. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

McKinney is a different player, a style all her own. She can be intense, but there’s an artistry to her game that can be mesmerizing to watch. Will she glare at an opponent and get the desired effect the way Epps could? Probably not, but her high-arcing step-back 3-point daggers can pierce psyches just as effectively.

“She’s a little bit more laid back than I was,” Epps said of McKinney. “But she’s definitely very canny and she wants the ball. She wants to score.”

Epps’ name blanketed the record book three years ago, but little by little it’s been replaced thanks to McKinney. Epps owned the single-game scoring record of 33 points for more than 15 years until McKinney torched Manson-Northwest Webster for 37 last January. McKinney matched her mark behind 11 3-pointers against Pocahontas Area in November, and then upped it with 40 points against Humboldt this month.

Epps’ single-season scoring record of 388 points is in jeopardy (McKinney currently sits at 308 this season) and her career field goals benchmark of 323 is perilously close to falling (McKinney enters Thursday with 310).

But Epps says no one will stand and cheer louder than her when her scoring mark does go by the wayside. She’s watched McKinney’s career evolve from afar, and they’ve even texted back and forth several times. Epps knows it’s McKinney’s time in the spotlight, and it’s a position she’s earned.

In this 2002 DFJ file photo, Kayleigh Epps (left) pressures a Bishop Garrigan shooter during a North Central Conference girls’ basketball game. Epps finished her Webster City career in 2004 with 895 career points, a 5-player school record. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“I am so pumped, not only for that moment, but for her,” Epps, who played collegiately at Iowa Central and Division II Columbus State University before finishing her career at Iowa Wesleyan, said. “I can remember when I (broke) it and I can remember (former WCHS head coach Dave) Hilton telling me and it’s an awesome feeling to know that record is yours. It’s big time. So to see it go down to somebody who is so deserving, it will be awesome to watch.”

Hilton, who also coached Epps on the softball field where she started at third base as a freshman when WCHS won the Class 2A state title in 2001, is surprised the record has held up this long. But he’s not surprised at the player in line to break it.

“They’re certainly different players,” Hilton, who also coached McKinney as a seventh grader, said. “Kayleigh wasn’t a great 3-pointer shooter and Taylor is a master out there with her quick release. Kayleigh was a tremendous scorer though, but I don’t think she would be the all-time leading scorer without the teammates she had. She had a great supporting cast and we had some really good teams during those years.”

McKinney already owns the Lynx career 3-point record, which she adds to nearly every time she laces up her sneakers. The number to beat was 66 for 19 years, something she did a season ago. She’ll enter Thursday’s game with 122 career triples.

Epps isn’t about to be permanently removed from the WCHS record book though. In fact, it may never happen. As good as she was offensively, she was arguably even better on the defensive end where she racked up 313 career steals, a figure no player has come within a country mile of over the last 15 years. It may never happen.

If the scoring record does fall on Thursday, there will be a meeting. Maybe it will be in the gymnasium with everyone watching. Maybe it will come in the locker room, away from the eyeballs. Somewhere, Epps and McKinney will stand together and celebrate the moment when the torch was officially passed.

They’ve been on this collision course for some time now. And they’re both excited to see how it all unfolds.

A look at the current Webster City girls’ basketball career records (5-player):

•Points: 895, Kayleigh Epps (2001-04).

•Rebounds: 612, Cassidy Nerland (2015-18).

•Steals: 313, Kayleigh Epps (2001-04).

•Assists: 289, Jenny Flora (1999-02).

•Blocks: 91, Erin Greenley (1999-02).

•Field Goals: 323, Kayleigh Epps (2001-04).

•3-point Field Goals: 122, Taylor McKinney (2016-).

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