Doniphan West girls knock off top seeds to win 1A, Div. I title

Published: Mar. 12, 2023 at 12:48 AM CST
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DODGE CITY, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - The No. 5 seed is not supposed to win the bracket. But maybe it was just Doniphan West’s turn. The Lady Mustangs finished third in 2021, and Coach Perry Smith had a pair of fourth-place finishes in four other state runs at Wetmore. Saturday evening, the girls completed a Class 1A, Div. I state championship run by hanging on to beat No. 2 seed Quinter 55-49.

“It feels better than the other six times we didn’t win it,” Smith said. “I thought our kids played hard all week, and really came out today and competed.”

It was an improbable road on paper. Doniphan ended Central Plains’ bid for a ninth-straight state title on Wednesday, then knocked off No. 1 seed Norwich in Friday’s semifinal.

“I’ve said this all week, the Twin Valley League tests you for things like this,” Smith said. “Central Plains is a great program, a great team, but we were not in awe of that. We feel like we see that every week in our league. Norwich, we were sluggish early, then we got going in the second half and got away from them. Tonight, our girls are just competitors. We don’t worry about the shot we missed, we go to the next one. We did that tonight.”

Quinter made the Lady Mustangs work for it. With 6-2 senior Anna Briggs on the bench with fouls, the Lady Bulldogs fell behind by as many as 16 points in the third quarter. A 3-pointer from senior Cashlyn Kvasnicka cut the gap to 45-34 late in the fourth.

“I wasn’t happy,” said Smith. “I didn’t think we extended the lead nearly enough when she was out. But it was big for us and we did just keep attacking them.”

Briggs returned with a basket early in the fourth, then sophomore Bryn Gillespie scored through a foul. A transition basket from Kvasnicka cut the deficit all the way to 47-41 with 5:09 still to play.

Quinter got as close as 49-45 before Doniphan senior Avery Weathersbee ended a long possession with a jumper with 1:39 remaining. Senior Kyra Johnson was huge for the Lady Mustangs all day. She missed a pair of free throws late in the fourth before closing out the game with four-straight makes to finish off the Bulldogs. She finished with a game-high 22 points to go with 13 rebounds, five assists, and five steals.

“Kyra is as good as there is in the state, and I mean that,” Smith said. “She played her tail off today. She missed a couple early then came in and hit four straight to end the game. We gave up a couple offensive boards there late, which was not good, but overall I thought we did a pretty good job at the end of the game of getting what we wanted to get.”

Defense was a key early on as Doniphan forced 10 turnovers in the first quarter and 13 by halftime. Doniphan’s Johnson and Quinter’s Kennedy Werth each scored 10 points in the first half.

Johnson added eight more points in the third quarter, but the crucial moment came when Briggs picked up a fourth foul with 4:31 to play in the frame. The Mustangs pulled ahead 36-28 with free throws from that foul, then went on to lead 45-29 with 1:13 left in the period.

Gillespie paced Quinter with 13 points. Briggs added 11 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocked shots. Kvasnicka also scored 11 points, and Werth finished with 10 points. The Lady Bulldogs will graduate just three players from the team that finishes the year at 22-4.

Weathersbee finished with 12 points and eight rebounds for Doniphan West. Sophomore Brennah Edie scored seven points, and sophomore Katie Johnson finished with six points. The Lady Mustangs will also graduate just three players from their 21-5 team.