5A girls’basketball can be unpredictable and the first round of the state tournament in Topeka was no exception. The seedings held little value as almost every game was a close battle.
No.2 Mustangs miss their chance
The Salina Central Lady Mustangs made their first appearance at state since the mid-80s. Their opponents, the St. Thomas Aquinas Lady Saints, made this their 18th straight year to appear in the tournament and are the defending state champions. Despite those facts, the Lady Saints came in as the underdog and the seventh seed. They upset the second seeded Lady Mustangs in the final seconds 38-36.
“Our program has had that experience, but our kids haven't had a lot of it,” St. Thomas Aquinas coach Sean Reilly said. “It was a nice win for these kids. Our kids got after it. That's a great team. Coach (Andrews) does a great job with them. We knew coming in that this was going to be tough, but our kids really committed themselves to the team."
The Lady Saints busted out of the gates with a six point lead at the end of the first quarter. They outscored the Lady Mustangs through the first three quarters but the fourth was a different story. Central clawed their way back to come within two points of St. Thomas Aquinas.
The Saints’ Claire Ferguson pushed Aquinas over the top with 10 points on the night. They pulled through in the fourth quarter and kept the lead defeating Central 38-36.
Salina Central coach Geoff Andrews said they have a lot to improve on in order to get back next year.
"I think it was a case of a team that was a lot more patient than we were,” he said. “We missed a lot of shots that were there. It was tradition versus building tradition. I think we're going to get there. You look at our roster and we're young and we're good."
This is the best the Mustangs have been in while and now they are ready to take it to the next level in the offseason.
“"I think it sets the bar where we want it,” he said. “In the past, we might have been happy if we could have hosted a sub-state game, or won a sub-state game, or finished top 4 in league. Now the bar is set where we want it. And the girls are the reason for it."
Underdog Lady Railers de-railed
The Newton girls appeared to be underdogs coming in as the No. 8 seed but they believed they were better than their 14-8 record.
“We were the big underdogs coming in,” Newton senior Maddie Pendry said. “A lot of people thought we were going to get blown out. We wanted to prove that we came to play and I think we did that. I’m proud of my girls.”
Although Newton came up short in its upset, falling 38-35.It proved it could play with the No. 1 team in 5A.
Nipping at the heels of the Lady Tigers, the Lady Railers kept the first half tight. Pendry hit a half court buzzer beater to tie the game after the first quarter. Not only did she tie the score but the momentum on the court shifted in the Railers’ favor.
“I felt like that definitely was a momentum change for us,” Pendry said. “The team got excited and I think that boosted our energy.”
After Pendry’s shot, Newton either led or was tied in the game until Blue Valley took a 33-31 lead with 2:36 left in the game.
“I knew we could compete with them,” Newton coach Randy Jordan said. “There was no question in my mind coming in that we could, but I think they were more physical than us and we didn’t respond to their physicalness like we should have.”
When Blue Valley was put on the free throw line it converted, hitting 15 of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter. To contrast, Newton only made 6 of its 13 and fell to the Lady Tigers 39-36.
Cold shooting dooms Andover once again
After suffering a cold spell that eliminated them from last year’s first round, the Lady Trojans once again could not find their offensive touch in a 46-37 loss to Topeka Seaman.
Andover shot 24.5 percent from the field and 4 of 20 from the three point line. The Trojans struggled against Seaman’s zone defense. Andover senior Audrey Meisch scored 14 points but was 3 of 17 shooting. While freshman Jaylyn Agnew scored 14 points and had 12 rebounds.
Crusaders cruise past Lady Scots
Unfortunately for the Highland Park Lady Scots, once they let Kapaun Mt. Carmel take the lead it was hard to come back. Highland Park missed its first 15 shots and were held scoreless in the first quarter as Kapaun took a 14-0 lead.
After that the Crusaders lead never fell below ten points and ballooned to 28 in the second half. With impenetrable defense the Lady Crusaders held Highland Park to 23 percent shooting on their way to a 52-35 victory.
Kapaun featured a balanced scoring attack as Samantha Bachrodt led the way with 11 points and seven steals.