WICHITA, Kan.—As Kapaun head coach Marvin Estes walked into the locker room, he had one thing to say.
“The team that is going to win this game is the toughest team.”
It was halftime of the Kapaun Mt. Carmel girls’ basketball game against Wichita Heights. Kapaun is the reigning 5A state champion and Heights, 6A. The Crusaders held a narrow lead, 28-27.
“This is (number) one against (number) one,” Estes said. “We love this kind of game, it’s what you live for.”
After two more quarters with neither team taking more than a three point lead, Kapaun was able to narrowly avoid defeat in the final seconds and won 50-48 increasing its perfect record to 9-0.
In the end, it was their determination to win that gave the Crusaders the edge, senior Hannah Lienhard said, who lead the team in scoring with 19 points.
“We wanted this so bad and our hearts were in it,” Lienhard said. “We wanted it for each other and we wanted it for coach because we know he spends so much time on us. We weren’t going to let up, we were going to play strong until the end.”
Another factor that contributed to the win, sophomore Grace Hagan said, was the strong defense played throughout the game.
“We played good defense and shut down their high-power players that had averaged high points,” Hagan said. “When we got them shut down that helped us because the other players had to try and score. We also helped (well) on defense. Defense was our main point.”
Coming into the game, the Crusaders had high expectations. They knew they had what it takes to beat Heights, and were determined to prove it.
“We had really high expectations because we had beaten south earlier and they beat Heights,” senior Hannah Lienhard said. “We knew they weren’t the same team as before and we all had faith in each other. We knew this was a big game for city league and it was going to come down to the end.”
The win didn’t come easy, and this is largely due to the amount of talent on the Heights team, Estes said.
“They’re extremely talented and they’re very well coached,” Estes said. “I’ve got to hand it to Heights, they are one heck of a team and it could have gone either way in the fourth quarter.”
Because they are so talented and such a tough team to beat, the Kapaun girls had to work and adjust their normal defense. The Crusader post players had to adapt to defending guards outside the post.
“We worked to improve our quickness and intensity for the entire game,” junior Sydney Kuhn said. “Anything we could for the post players to stay with the guards and the guards to work on post defense. Coach did an amazing job scouting and knew who needed to guard who. Also, everyone stepped up and did their part and helped contribute to the win.”
Shouts come from the locker room as the Crusaders continue to celebrate their hard-fought win. They could celebrate their victory Tuesday, but soon they must move on and focus on the next challenge.
“We can’t let up,” Lienhard said. “This is a big win, but we still have more work to do going into the [Newton] tournament. Our season is definitely not over yet.”