The Ingalls girls basketball team made its third straight appearance in Hays this week and with just two seniors and six freshmen, it's hard to believe this is the best team of the bunch. Yet, the Lady Bulldogs were the number one seed in Class 1A Division II and a win over Norwich away from a state title and a perfect 26-0 season.
The Lady Eagles would be no push overs. After all, they were 24-1 heading into Saturday evening's title game.
Ingalls came out like a team on a mission, grabbing a 10-1 lead after one quarter and pushing the lead to 14-2 before Norwich even got on the board.
"First quarters have been game winners for us," said Ingalls head coach Roger Thurlow. "If we can just hold on from there on."
That looked like it might be a challenge. The bucket by Haley Rust nearly 10 minutes into the game seamed to energize the Lady Eagles, who out scored Ingalls 12-9 in the second quarter, but still trailed by seven at the half.
This season defense has been the calling card of the Ingalls basketball team, and Saturday's championship was no exception. The Lady Bulldogs held Norwich to just nine second half points, and just three in the forth quarter.
"Our defense has been our back bone and it won us the game tonight," said Thurlow. "I really didn't expect (to hold Norwick to 22). I thought if we could get to 40 we would have a great chance."
They didn't need 40, though they got close. But what they got was enough to give Ingalls its first title in school history with a 37-22 victory over Norwich.
"It's indescribable," said senior Tara Whipple, who lead the Lady Bulldogs with 12 points. "We weren't really expecting it with a bunch of freshmen coming in. But it's great."
Thurlow said the season success to a tribute to hard work.
"For these girls they have been so consistent with their effort every night as a group," he said. "They came to work every day, practice or game. They did their job, didn't complain and went home. Next thing you know you look up and we are undefeated state champs."
Boys Championship: Axtell 65, Fowler 56
What would March Madness be with out a Cinderella story? Last season, it was the sixth seed Wallace County girls winning a state title in Hays. This season the slipper seemed to fit the seventh seeded Axtell Eagles.
But being the bell of the ball would not be easy, not when the unbeaten Fowler Goldbugs stood in their way.
Fowler grabbed an early four point lead after one quarter, but Axtell's big men really seemed to own the game and helped the Eagles grab a one point halftime lead.
"(Payton Heinen) and (Aaron Schmeizle) are both excellent players," said Fowler head coach Scott Brown. "And they both did a great job."
Great to the tune of 26 points for Schmeizle and 23 points, nine rebounds and three big blocks for Heinen. The two were game changers. And even though Fowler got double digit efforts from three players (Joel Milford-15, Ty Clark-12, Tayin Bird-11) it was not enough to get the the victory.
Axell stretched the lead to eight after three quarters and the game settled on a 65-56 final. At 18-8 the Eagles are the 1A DII state champions.
"Hats off to Axtell they did a great job, they are well coached and have excellent players," said Brown.
White City, Golden Plains win third place games; Steinle breaks tournament record
In the boys third place game, White City knocked off Wallace County 53-46. The Huskies were lead in scoring by Jaren Nittler with 15 points. Gavin Mote lead the Wildcats with 17.
In the girls third place game, Golden Plains beat Wilson 77-67. Lady Bulldogs were lead by Jordan Christensen with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
Even though her team lost, Lady Dragon's star Karlie Steinle had a record breaking day. She hit 19-22 free throws, giving her 35 for the tournament. That breaks a 16 year old record for free throws in a state tournament. The previous record was held by Wichita Northwest's Kendra Jones. Steinle ended up with 42 total points and 18 rebounds on the day.