Cunningham girls upset Beloit-St. John’s Tipton to advance to finals
GREAT BEND, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - The 2020-21 season has been atypical from the tip. It’s staying that way at the Class 1A, Div. II State Basketball Championships at Barton Community College. In the early game, No. 4 seed Central Plains led unbeaten Golden Plains by as many as 16 points in an upset. In the nightcap, No. 3 seed Cunningham scored the first 13 points and never looked back in a 52-31 win against No. 2 seed Beloit-St. John’s Tipton.
“Cunningham has been in the finals one time before, didn’t win,” said Lady Wildcat coach Eric Meyers. “I felt like we had more pressure getting to the state tournament than in the state tournament. I’ve dragged these girls around, half of them, since they were in the third grade. They’re probably about tired of me but they’re going to have to put up with me one more game.”
The outcome of Thursday’s semifinal was rarely in doubt as Cunningham scored the first 13 points and 17 of the first 19 points. Senior Maddi Panek played a big role in the first eight minutes, and junior Madie McGuire had five rebounds in the opening frame, including four on the offensive end. The Cats led 17-5 after one.
“That was huge,” Meyers said. “The early start was big. We generally do start well. A lot of times in the second half we coast or fizzle. I said at halftime if we win the third quarter this game is ours.”
Cunningham senior Morgan Meyers already had five points in the first quarter. She went off for 12 more points in the second, finishing the first half with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting with three triples.
“Morgan just seems to have her biggest games on the biggest stage,” said Coach Meyers, who doubles as her father. “I don’t know what it is about her, but the bigger the game the better she is. She’s happy to share and makes everyone else better. We’re a good basketball game with her on the court.”
If Coach Meyers needed the third quarter to secure his win he almost got it. St. John’s senior Lauryn Dubbert tried to play spoiler with 11 points in the period. She hit four of her first eight shots from the outside, and sank three treys in the third. She scored 16 of the first 27 Lady Jay points.
The Lady Wildcats led 41-27 with eight minutes to play and St. John’s never threatened again. Meyers scored on an early assist from senior Alayna McGuire. Meyers finished the night with 28 points and five steals.
The Lady Jays scored just four points in the final frame. Dubbert ended her decorated prep career with 18 points and four rebounds. Junior Paige Hollerich added five points, and sophomore Ella Wiles scored four points. Beloit-St. John’s ends its season at 19-2.
Madie McGuire and Panek each scored seven points for Cunningham, and McGuire led all players with 11 rebounds. Panek grabbed eight boards. Reese McGuire finished with six points.
Cunningham improves to 23-2 on the season. The Lady Wildcats last finished third at state in 2018. Saturday the girls get the ultimate test against Central Plains and its sixth-straight state titles.
“I don’t look ahead,” Coach Meyers said. “By breakfast time tomorrow I better have my act together. They are the team to beat. I don’t care if they’re a 4-seed. I actually thought when the bracket came out it was upside down. I think they should have been the one. I think they are the team to beat. I think we were a two, and I think maybe we showed that tonight.
“I’ve been wanting to play Central Plains for a long time. I know in years past I couldn’t beat them but I wanted to see where we were. We’ll find out.”
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