By Mike Courson
The No. 2 seed is out. Thursday's girls' action in Class 3A got off to an exciting start as No. 7 seed Royal Valley pulled off a 51-48 upset against Nemaha Central in the early quarterfinal at Hutchinson's Sports Arena.
Nemaha Central led 38-34 heading into the fourth quarter and was clinging to a 42-40 lead when Royal Valley senior Tamo Thomas knocked down a three with 4:25 to play. Senior Marlissa Jordan added a basket inside to push the lead to 45-42.
"I've been practicing and finally shot it well," said Thomas, who finished with 17 points that included a 5-for-8 effort from behind the arc. "I've been having some bad shooting days."
The Thunder got their own big shot from senior Laura Macke, a trey that knotted the score at 47 with under a minute and a half to play.
Another Jordan basket gave Royal Valley the lead for good with 61 seconds left. Macke had the chance to be the hero again but her shot inside rimmed out. An offensive rebound led to a jump ball under the Thunder basket, and that ultimately led to a pair of free throws for Macke with just 2.7 seconds left on the clock.
Macke missed the first, then intentionally missed the second in an effort to get the rebound. A violation gave the ball back to the Panthers and senior Bella Thompson made the first of two free throws with 1.7 seconds to play. She missed the second and Thunder junior Ashley Larkin was there for the rebound, but Larkin's three-quarter quart heave to tie the game came up well short.
As the No. 2 seed, Nemaha Central controlled the first quarter to lead 14-8. Royal Valley cut that gap in half in the second quarter but lost a point in the third quarter.
"We've just been practicing staying together and cheering each other and making each other feel good," said Thomas.
Jordan finished with nine points for Royal Valley. Junior Mary Broxterman notched a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Macke led Nemaha Central with 13 points. Alleigh Kramer and Jacy Dallinghaus each added 12 points. Larkin finished with six points and eight boards.
Nemaha Central closes the book on a 21-3 season. Royal Valley moves to 16-7 heading into Friday's early semifinal.
TMP 55, Wellsville 40
The dream is still alive for the Lady Monarchs. TMP has finished third in the last two Class 3A state tournaments, and this year's squad is guaranteed at least a shot at that hardware in 2018 after Thursday's win.
Wellsville was able to hang around early. A 3-pointer from junior Paige McDaniel gave the Eagles a 9-8 lead midway through the first quarter. That would prove to be their last. TMP junior Emily Schippers and senior Aubrey Koenigsman each hit treys in the final 2:19 of that opening frame to give the Monarchs a 17-13 lead after one.
Lady Eagle senior Sydney Dwyer scored nine of the first 16 Wellsville points. Her three early in the second quarter made for a one-possession game at 19-16. The Lady Monarchs again pulled away. Senior Kayla Vitztum made a free throw, then her steal led to a transition layup from junior Jillian Lowe. Sophomore Adell Riedel added a late three, and Vitztum got to the rim for a 28-18 halftime score.
The offenses slowed to a near stop in the third quarter. The teams went nearly four minutes without a field goal until Dwyer jump started things with a pass to McDaniel. Vitztum answered with an assist to senior Savannah Yost on the other end.
Vitztum and TMP took over from there. Vitztum's converted an old-fashioned 3-point play, then Yost hit a baseline jumper. Vitztum, the all-state athlete in three sports, went the distance with a steal for a 38-21 lead.
Vitztum finished with a team-high 17 points. She made nine of her 14 free throws while Wellsville made just eight attempts from the line in the game.
"I just tried really hard to go after it and get to the hoop," Vitztum said. "When they started doubling, I tried kicking it out but if not, I just took it up and tried to be really strong."
When Wellsville begin missing shots in the third, TMP was there to clean it up. Vitztum and Yost split 24 rebounds, and the Monarchs won the rebound battle 36-28.
"At first we weren't doing too good at rebounding so that was a thing we really wanted to pick up in the second half," said Vitztum. "I think we did a good job of that."
There was a scary moment with two minutes to play in the third when McDaniel suffered a bloody knee after colliding with the score table. McDaniel, the reigning 400m champion in Class 3A, later returned with a bandaged leg.
After scoring just 10 points in the middle quarters, Wellsville was able to shrink a 19-point deficit to 11 points with 1:18 remaining in the game.
Dwyer led all players with 20 points to lead Wellsville. McDaniel just missed a double-double with nine points and eight boards. Lowe and Koenigsman each scored 10 points for TMP.
Wellsville ends its season at 18-5. TMP moves to 21-2 heading into Friday's early semifinal against No. 7 seed Royal Valley. The Monarchs are looking to get past the semifinal round for the first time in the three-year run.
"We definitely always want to do better than we did the past year," Vitztum said. "We're trying to get to that state championship. We're really focusing on playing our hardest."
Garden Plain 58, Caney Valley 31
After making just three field goals in the first half, No. 8 seed Caney Valley had reason to be optimistic heading into the half against top-seeded Garden Plain with just a 20-12 deficit. The offenses warmed up in the second half and that spelled doom for the Bullpups, who were unable to hang with the potent Owl attack.
The Bullpups shot a meager 3 for 17 from the floor in the opening half. Caney opened the third quarter with baskets on its first three tries, including two from junior Elizabeth Rogers. But everything the Bullpups did, the Owls did better. Garden Plain made its first five shots of the second half, capped by a pair of threes from sophomore Abby Gordon and junior Lauren Danahy. The Owls were able to pull away 45-21 heading into the fourth quarter.
Garden Plain continued extend its lead late in the game. A trey from senior Taylor Joplin put the Owls ahead 52-26 with 3:56 remaining. Coach Kody Kasselman was able to empty his bench late in the contest. Senior Brook Wapelhorst made the most of her time with a trey in the final two minutes and a long two in the final 45 seconds. The Owls led by as many as 28 points.
Joplin led all players with 16 points for Garden Plain. Piper Bourne added 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Gordon and Kara Heimerman each finished with nine points. Caney Valley senior Breanna Buoy played through some pain to pace the Lady Bullpups with 10 points. Rogers added eight points and seven rebounds.
Caney Valley ends the year with a 13-11 record. Garden Plain heads to Friday's semifinal at 21-1.
Haven 60, Scott City 50
By now Haven's story is well known around Kansas. The Lady Cats were on their way down from the No. 1 spot in Class 3A at the start of February when assistant coach Dave Chamberlain lost his life in a car accident.
Since then, an inspired Haven team has lost just one game to another former No. 1 team in Kingman. The Lady Cats made their way through one of the toughest sub-states in Class 3A, then Thursday night, made their debut at state in front of a home-like crowd just 15 miles away in Hutchinson. In true No. 4 vs. No 5 fashion, Haven needed free throws to advance with the 60-50 win.
"That's what a 4/5 game should be like," said Haven coach Dwight Roper. "They weren't going to go away and we knew that. They came back and got it down to three. I told the girls they're not going to quit. You don't have the success they've had over the last few years and quit."
Scott City had whittled a 10-point halftime deficit to just three points late in the third quarter. Haven senior Emmiley Hendrixson, who scored the first eight Lady Cat points on perfect shooting, came up with a timely three in the final 25 seconds of that frame to give her team a 47-41 cushion.
Sophomore Sara Yutzy scored 40 seconds into the final quarter on a feed from sophomore Kara Matteson. The Lady Cats were able to hang on to that comfortable lead until Scott City sophomore Emily Weathers hit a jumper for a 52-48 score.
It was all free throws after that. Lady Beaver senior Emily Smith fouled out with 1:39 to play after scoring 11 points. Haven sophomore Faith Paramore followed with two free throws. Twenty-one seconds later, Scott City lost senior guard Macie Price to her fifth foul. Hendrixson converted both of those free throws. In all, Haven made eight-straight free throws in the final 1:39 to push the lead back to 10 points.
Early on, Hendrixson showed off her abilities with a pull-up trey and a drive to the basket. She added another three in the first four minutes of play to give the Cats a quick 8-1 lead. "It was huge," she said. "Getting that early run is always big. We just build off that."
Thanks to a three from senior Bailey Latta and four points from Weathers, the Beavers were able to close the gap to 14-11 by the end of the first quarter.
The score was 19-12 when Weathers converted a 3-point play, then Smith's basket inside cut the deficit all the way to two points at 19-17. Haven answered with a jumper from Hendrixson and two field goals from senior Maguire Estill. The lead was 32-22 at the half.
In the third quarter, Haven again led by as many as 10 points before Scott City used a three from Price and free throws from Smith to get as close as 42-39.
Hendrixson opened state with 24 points and 13 rebounds. She hit three treys and went 7 for 9 from the line. "I was really nervous going in so I wasn't sure how I was going to do," she said. "I'm thankful my teammates helped pick me up and helped us get a win."
Estill added 10 points for the Cats, Jordan Barlow scored nine points, and Paramore finished with eight points. Smith, Weathers, and Price each scored 11 points to pace the Lady Beavers. Latta finished with eight points.
Scott City ends its year at 19-5. Haven moves to 20-3 heading into Friday's semifinal against No. 1 seed Garden Plain (21-1).
"We're going to get a state championship," said Hendrixson. "That's our goal. It's been our goal since day one."