Bucklin girls win first SPIAA tourney championship
DODGE CITY, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - When she was a youngster, Catherine Bowman sat on the bench when her dad, Craig, coached the Red Aces to strong seasons. Bowman recalled when Bucklin earned runner-up in the Southern Plains Iroquois league tournament. Notably, in 2014, Bucklin was the tournament’s top seed with Morgan Hood and Janae Price and suffered an upset loss to eventual champion Ingalls.
On Saturday, Bowman accomplished her goal with Bucklin’s 44-36 comeback victory against Hodgeman County in the SPIAA final at United Wireless Arena. A four-year starter in volleyball and basketball, Bowman has averaged 21 points a game this winter.
“That was always a big goal of mine to come back and make it,” Catherine said. “And then obviously, my senior year, this was my last chance to do it
She tallied a game-high 19 points and has helped the Red Aces improve their defense from last winter. Coach Bowman believed it marked the first time Bucklin had ever won the SPIAA league tournament.
“An overall great team effort,” coach Bowman said.
Price, now married to Bucklin football coach Trever Powell, is the Red Aces’ assistant coach. Catherine, Price and Hood are three of the four players coach Bowman has had who exceeded 1,000 career points with Bucklin. Bowman is the team captain this season.
“Coming back and doing it my last year was really special,” Catherine said.
The No. 2 seed, Bucklin improved to 10-2. Hodgeman County dropped to 10-4 and played in its first SPIAA final in at least 15 seasons. HC had captured seven in a row. The Longhorns, seeded fifth, defeated South Gray (37-26) and Spearville (48-43) earlier in the week.
“Give it Hodgeman County,” coach Bowman said. “They ran the gauntlet. Beat all the top seeds.”
“Just kind of ran out of steam tonight,” Hodgeman County coach Trent Bright added.
Also on Thursday, Bucklin came back to defeat Coldwater-South Central, 36-35. Spearville has dealt with significant injuries, though was the top seed. SG beat Bucklin in regular season action.
“It was on the defensive end,” coach Bowman said. “Creating energy that way.”
After the girls’ game, Hodgeman County and SPIAA honored Courtney TyLynn Panzner. She served as Hodgeman County’s manager last winter. Panzner passed away June 14, 2020 at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. She was 17.
Many people, including Bright, had teary eyes when the public address announcer read memories and highlights of Panzner life. Panzner was a member of Special Olympics, Girl Scouts and an avid sports fan, among other qualities, according to a Dodge City Globe obituary.
“Always that laugh,” Bright said. “That laugh was infectious. She could always brighten up your day. … She will be missed by many, and not just Hodgeman County, but league wide. She was loved league-wide. She was a special individual.”
Bucklin, helped by 5-foot-8 freshman Sydnie Jones, sophomore Haile Feikert, junior point guard Emalea Warden and senior Danae Scott, entered Saturday with .81 points per possession and .61 points a possession allowed. Additionally, the Red Aces tallied 9.2 steals a game and delivered steals on 24 percent of possessions.
Last year, Bucklin finished 14-7 and fourth place at league. Overall, the Red Aces scored .81 points per possession, but allowed .66 and had steals on 17 percent of possessions.
“There’s six pretty good athletes, and so I have got to use what we’ve got,” coach Bowman said.
In a back-and-forth contest, HC led 8-7 after the first quarter, though Bucklin took a 17-13 advantage into halftime. The Longhorns led 31-28 entering the fourth. Longhorn junior Grace Shiew tallied a team-high 10 points. Bucklin limited Hodgeman County to under 25 percent shooting. Bright said missing “some easy shots” was the difference for Longhorns.
“They do a good job of slowing you down with that pressure,” Bright said. “So we never really got comfortable in the offensive end.”
Bucklin opened the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run and never trailed again.
“We were struggling so much offensively,” coach Bowman said. “I told them we had to get something done on the defensive side to create some transition baskets, and I think our energy carried over. We started playing a little more downhill offensively.”
HC was plus-5 on the glass after three quarters, but the Red Aces held a 14-5 edge in the fourth.
“Stopping the ball and getting rebounds,” Catherine said. “Rebounding is the main emphasis of our defense. Not fouling. We are not very deep.”
Bucklin often pushed the pace and opened the fourth quarter when Bowman grabbed a defensive rebound and went on the fast break. She found Jones for a basket. Jones tallied 12 points, three rebounds and two steals and wreaked havoc defensively. Catherine said Jones played a “great game.”
“She is long,” Bright said. “She has got really long arms, and she made some key shots tonight for them in key moments, and she made some key steals and deflections and really hurt us. Yeah, she’s a good, young player.”
Then, Feikert scored off an offensive rebound, and then tallied another basket for a 34-31 advantage. Jones found Feikert for a jumper and a 36-31 advantage with 4:10 left in the game. Scott delivered a key 3, and Bowman sunk five free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
“We just picked up the intensity defensively,” Catherine said. “And then on the offense, we worked on just being more patient with the ball and not trying to force things. Just getting it around. Working it inside.”
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