The Bucklin Lady Red Aces didn’t know what they were in for. The Ingalls Lady Bulldogs have been in the SPIAA championship before and their composure was vital this time around in their win 49-40 over the Aces. Last year they fell in a nail biter to the Spearville Lady Lancers and this time they were not going to let anything stand in the way of that title.
“Absolutely we have a couple of upperclassmen who have been very successful with a couple trips to state and they’ve been third and fourth and runners-up in this tournament,” Ingalls head coach Roger Thurlow said. “They are a very focused and dedicated group. They wanted to win this tournament and go even further than this. Our senior leaders and Becca have done an excellent job of keeping us motivated in practice and games and carrying us in games. We certainly had a lot of motivation coming in to this tournament and we will going into another tournament in Hays.”
The scenario was slightly different on Saturday. The Lady Bulldogs were undefeated and third in the state. Morgan Hood and Allyson Rudd have been Bucklin’s key assets throughout the tournament but Rudd only had two points in the first half and Hood didn’t make her first basket until a three-pointer late in the second quarter. Despite a tough first quarter the Lady Bulldogs had a good offensive second and took the lead 22-10 at the half. “We are a very good defensive team but we don’t really separate ourselves unless our offense is really going,” Thurlow said. “We can really get in our own way on offense a lot and we did that again tonight. We don’t run our plays the way they are supposed to be run and we don’t look to the rim. Defensively that keeps us in games and when we get clicking on offense that’s when we start to separate ourselves.”
Bucklin struggled with nine turnovers in the first and none of their shots seemed to convert. The Lady Red Aces only made four of their 29 shots from the field. The Lady Bulldogs offensive boost came from Rebecca Wyatt and Tara Whipple, their leading scorer with 14 points. Whipple said their defense was key to her offensive dominance. “Our defense was outstanding tonight and I’ve been in a little bit of a slump but I shot my way out of it,” Whipple said. “I think free throws were key for me tonight and that’s where I think a lot of my points came from.”
The Lady Bulldogs posted a 17 point lead to start off the second half but Bucklin slowly chipped into it. “There was a four minute stretch in the fourth quarter that really worried me,” Thurlow said. “It coincided with Becca going to the bench with her four fouls. She’s usually our backbone, rebounding, defensively, without her we struggle. We play a lot of freshman and although they are doing a great job in big games like this they struggle with knowing what to do. We were also tired at that point and I give Bucklin a lot of credit. They are a fantastic team and they knew to push the tempo.”
The Aces came back within five points but free throws would silence their comeback as the Lady Bulldogs claim the championship 49-40.
SPIAA Boys’ Championship: #1 Fowler vs. #2 South Gray
The other undefeated team in the SPIAA tournament also went home that way. The Fowler Goldbugs defeated the South Gray Rebels in the boys’ championship with relative ease 66-43.
The Goldbugs balanced offense took control quickly. The combined power of junior Ty Clark and senior Jett Reese under the basket is an attribute Fowler head coach Scott Brown and the Goldbugs have learned to emphasize. “Ty is just a phenomenal athlete,” he said. “He’s getting stronger and he works his tail off in the weight room. When he plays strong there are not many people who can stop him and he’s really starting to figure that out and he’s really coming into his own. Jett’s very skilled. He can handle the basketball; he can shoot it, and do a little bit of everything. You can’t ask for much better than that. They are really becoming good, strong leaders for us as well.”
Fowler’s only hiccup came with two minutes remaining the first half. Clark was penalized with a foul and a technical putting him on the bench with four fouls. His absence was a shot to the Goldbugs but junior Taylin Bird stepped up on the perimeter. Fowler nailed three consecutive three’s off fast breaks. Bird ended it the first half as he dropped a buzzer-beating three-bomb and Fowler clearly had the momentum as they celebrated off the court with a 39-19 lead. Brown said what really set them apart in this match up were the Goldbugs weapons. “Offensively we have a tremendous amount of weapons,” he said. “We can shoot the ball and we can go inside or outside. What really set us apart tonight was the maturing of our team. Things got a little hairy there at the start of the game but our guys were able to control themselves and kept playing.”
Senior Joel Milford was a crucial part of Fowler’s second half stand. The Goldbugs coasted their way to the SPIAA championship title through the second half and overcame the Rebels 66-43.
“We focus on defense and rebounding and that’s the main thing,” said Milford. “We do that and offense will come like it does. We’ve been playing together for so many years that our chemistry is not an issue.”
“The kids work really hard in the summer and this is what we work for,” Brown said. “This is the first time in a very long time that we’ve beaten South Gray in basketball.”
Third Place Girls: Spearville vs. Ashland
The defending SPIAA champions were not in the same position they were in a year ago. After falling to the No. 1 seed Ingalls Lady Bulldogs in the semi-finals, the Spearville Lady Lancers found themselves battling for third place against the Ashland Lady Jays and their go to guard Canaan Endicott. The Lady Lancers battled for three quarters but pulled through in the final minutes to take third 42-37.
Spearville took a quick lead in their third place match up with Ashland. A three-bomb by Canaan Endicott brought the Lady Jays back in the action and at the end of the first the Lady Lancers only had a one-point lead 8-7.
Spearville junior Lindsey Heskamp led off with a big three but free throws were a defining factor that the Lady Jays took advantage of. Spearville was 4-10 and Ashland was 7-9 at the line giving Ashland the 20-17 lead going into halftime.
A defensive battle ensued throughout the third. Ashland only gained four points while Spearville was kept to three. The Lady Jays retained the lead 24-20 at the end of the third.
The Lancers emerge from behind and both offenses find their rhythms. Senior Katie Rabe sank a three-pointer to put Spearville ahead with three minutes remaining. The Lady Lancers stay on top to take third place 42-37.
Third Place Boys: Ashland vs. Kiowa County
Only four different players scored for the Ashland Blue jays in their third place match up against the Kiowa County Mavericks. The Mavericks took advantage of their lack of experience taking the lead and keeping it as they took down the Jays 49-43.
Kiowa County put up the first four points of the game. Maverick post Damien Odle led the rampage with five points in the first quarter. The Jays have proved themselves to be comeback kings and yet again they proved their fans right. Ashland sophomore Corey McCann was the Jays saving grace sinking all four of his free throws to tie the game at 15 and 17. Both times Kiowa County senior Kendall Watson responded and put the Mavericks back on top at halftime 21-18.
Senior Caleb Davis had a big third quarter including a three to give the Mavericks a seven point lead. The Mavericks extended their lead and despite multiple chances to pull themselves back into the game, the defending state champion Blue jays fell to Kiowa County 49-43.