This year’s girls Class 5A state field is without an unbeaten. Making up for that is a plethora of once- and twice-beaten teams. The top two seeds, Leavenworth and Salina Central, were both 21-1. Seeds three through five are, in order, Great Bend, St. Thomas Aquinas and Kapaun Mt. Carmel, all with 20-2 marks.
After a big quarterfinal-round upset, Friday’s semifinals have Leavenworth (23-0) against Kapaun (21-2) with Salina Central (22-1) going against Great Bend (21-2).
Kapaun Mt. Carmel 35, St. Thomas Aquinas 34
One thing is certain – there will be a new champion this year. That was assured when Janay Jacobs drove the lane and softly laid the ball off the glass and in at the buzzer as Kapaun Mt. Carmel upset defending state champion St. Thomas Aquinas 35-34.
Aquinas (20-3) was making its 19th consecutive state appearance. The Saints trailed until Kendra Weledji grabbed a loose ball and hit a jumper in the lane for their only lead, 34-33, with 10 seconds left.
Kapaun coach Marvin Estes called a timeout with 8.2 seconds remaining.
“We knew they were going to be looking for Sam (Bachrodt) to get the ball (on the inbounds pass), so we gave them what they wanted,” Estes said.
The eventual plan was to get the ball inside to Sydney Kuhn. After throwing the ball in to Bachrodt, Grace Hagan got the return pass slashing down the left side. When she crossed midcourt, Hagan found Kuhn closely guarded but Jacobs popped open on the right wing.
Hagan got the ball to Jacobs who drove the lane, used a pick from Georgia Schaefer and hit the bunny shot.
“I didn’t even think I’d be a part of the play, but seeing nobody else was open I went out for the ball,” Jacobs said. “I didn’t have anything else in my mind except go to the basket and make it, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Defense was the name of the game as points were at a premium. Kapaun led 8-2 at the end of the first quarter and 17-8 at intermission. The Saints regrouped at halftime, opening the third quarter with a 6-0 run. They got to within 23-22 at quarter’s end, setting the stage for the wild finish.
Kuhn scored 13 and Bachrodt 11 for the Crusaders.
Weledji had 13 points for Aquinas, 11 in the second half. Allie Dierks added eight points before leaving the game with a leg injury in the fourth quarter.
“We beat them because the basketball Gods were in our favor,” Estes said. “I’m very proud of the way our kids played.”
Leavenworth 71, Eisenhower 37
An eight seed in 2013, Leavenworth took eventual champion St. Thomas Aquinas to double overtime before losing in the first round. The Pioneers are the top seed this year, playing Eisenhower, making its first state appearance just two years after a winless season.
Although Leavenworth led wire to wire, it didn’t look like the state’s top-ranked team early on. After Eisenhower pulled to within 8-5, the Pioneers reeled off an 11-4 run to lead 19-9 at the end of the quarter. The Tigers (16-7) had nearly as many fouls (seven) as they did points in the quarter.
Leavenworth went on to lead 37-21 at halftime. The third quarter looked much the same, as the Pioneers outscored the Tigers 21-4. Leavenworth played mostly reserves in the fourth quarter and still managed a 13-12 advantage on the scoreboard.
LaToshia Jones scored 14 points off the bench for Leavenworth, and Rachel Blackburn added a dozen.
Kilah Hoenscheidt and Jaden Damon each had eight points for Eisenhower.
Salina Central 63, St. James Academy 31
Salina Central, the two seed, made just its third state appearance. It was the first appearance for St. James Academy (17-6) in its nine-year history.
The Thunder kept it close the first quarter, leading 8-6 before the Mustangs rallied for a 16-10 lead. They doubled their lead to 31-19 at halftime.
The Mustangs continued to add points, coasting 43-24 at the end of the third quarter. Central put up 20 points to seven for St. James in the fourth quarter for the final score.
A trio of Mustangs hit for double figures. Shaelyn Martin led everyone with 22 points, Emily Wood had 13, and Hailey Mayfield added 11.
Julianne Smith scored 13 points for St. James.
Great Bend 60, Seaman 46
The winningest team in Great Bend history entered the tournament as the three seed, its first appearance since finishing second in 2009. Seaman made its third appearance in the last five years and 14th overall.
The Panthers broke a 2-all tie with six straight points. Seaman (19-4) got to within three and four before finding itself on the short end of a 16-8 score at the end of the first quarter.
A trio of jumpers by Morgan Harwood early in the second quarter helped push Great Bend’s lead to 25-12. Dani Spence hit 3 of 4 from the line and Brooke McMillin drained a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to seven, 25-18, at halftime.
Seaman picked up in the second half where it left off in the first. With the first five points of the third quarter, the Vikings’ combined 11-0 run pulled them to within two, 25-23. They eventually took their only lead, 29-28, on a basket by Tatyana Legette.
Finding themselves behind for the first time seemed to light a fire under the Panthers. They outscored the Vikings 8-2 to lead 36-31 at the end of the quarter.
The Panthers finally pulled away in the fourth quarter. Harwood scored four points to extend the lead to 43-34. Great Bend iced the victory by hitting 13 of 18 from the line down the stretch.
Three Panthers were in double figures. Harwood had 14 points and 13 rebounds. Regan Unruh and Kaylie Doll each scored 13 points.
McMillin scored 13 points and Legette 12 for Seaman.