SEDGWICK, Kan.—For this group of Moundridge seniors, it must have seemed as though the state tournament was just not in the cards. After losing in the sub-state championship game three years in a row, maybe a trip to the state tournament simply wasn’t meant to be.
But after outlasting a tough top-10 Hillsboro team, the Wildcats found themselves holding the big sub-state trophy with a 48-43 win.
“For us to get here, someone has to step up,” said Moundridge senior guard Trey Unrau. “In the first game it was (Alex) Bumgarner, then Daniel (Ratzlaff) hit six 3’s in the second half (against Sedgwick in the semifinals), and now it was Alex Otte, had big buckets down the stretch. Without them, we’re not here.”
Moundridge, ranked No. 4 in the state and favorite to win the sub-state tournament in Sedgwick, had to fight off the Trojans at every turn.
Unrau led the Wildcats with 22 points, and helped Moundridge to an early lead in the first. But before they could pull away, Christian Ratzlaff and the Trojans answered right back, foreshadowing the flow of the game.
Moundridge takes a lead, Hillsboro gets it back.
A strong finish to the first quarter helped the Wildcats to an early 16-12 lead, and after a defensive second quarter, Moundridge held a 24-20 lead at the half, with 16 minutes left to grab a trip to state.
Ratzlaff, who led the Trojans with 18 points, helped propel Hillsboro in the second half, cutting the lead to 34-33.
But every time the Trojans looked poised to take control of the game, Unrau and the Wildcats had the answer.
Down the stretch, Otte imposed his will underneath the basket. The senior ended with 12 points, and his clutch scoring at the end of the game held Hillsboro at bay and gave Moundridge an elusive ticket to state.
Hillsboro girls suffocate Moundridge to punch fourth-straight ticket
Losing a player like Tena Loewen would cripple most teams. But with a senior class that has been to state in each of their three previous high school seasons, Hillsboro has the talent, and experience to keep plugging along, all the way back to the state tournament.
The No. 5 team in the state used a stellar defensive effort to shut Moundridge down completely in a 29-19 win.
“It’s one of those things that speaks for a lot of the other girls,” said Hillsboro head coach Nathan Hiebert. “I think a lot of people put a lot of pressure on Tena, but we’ve got a lot of other girls. Our goals weren’t set this high just because of one girl.”
Weary of Moundridge sophomore MacKenzie Suderman’s ability to shoot the ball, Callie Serene was charged with the task of shutting her down. Serene came through in a big way, holding Suderman to 3 points, and effectively taking the Lady Wildcats out of their offense.
The Hillsboro defense shut out Moundridge in the first quarter, taking a 6-0 lead. In the second, the Lady Trojans were able to get the ball inside to senior Krista Reimer who controlled the paint on her way to a 10-point game.
At the half, the Lady Trojans only managed 16 points, but took away the Moundridge offense, holding the Lady Wildcats to 6 points in the first 16 minutes of the game.
In the second half, Moundridge got the ball to start the third and held it for over two minutes before taking a shot. Not by design, but because the Hillsboro defense didn’t allow the Lady Wildcats a look.
In the third quarter, Moundridge had its best offensive production of the game, with 7 points. Despite the poor offensive showing, after three quarters the Lady Wildcats only trailed 22-13.
In the fourth quarter, some Hillsboro turnovers gave Moundridge a window of hope.
“Thankfully they kept missing shots and we kept getting the ball back without too much repercussions,” said Hiebert. “Moundridge, we knew that they weren’t going to roll over. They are a good ball club. They have been in this situation as well. They won 2A last year so they understand big game situations. They understand that there is going to be adversity and fighting back.”
The Lady Wildcats made one last push in the 2011-2012 season, but came up short in the attempt to go back-to-back across two classifications.