GREAT BEND, Kan. - Carter Kruger is one win away from something really special in Liberal. His Lady Redskins are pushing for dynasty status as they seek a second-straight unbeaten regular season. Two years ago Liberal went 23-2 and finished third in Class 5A. Last year the girls took a perfect 22-0 record into the Class 6A state tournament. With Friday’s 51-21 win at Great Bend, the Lady Redskins sit at 19-0 on the year.
“If anybody tells you they expect to have back-to-back undefeated seasons, they’ll probably pretty crazy,” Kruger said. “Once I saw the talent we had and our kids’ dedication to the game of basketball, the time they’ve spent, and the amount of care they have for our program and Lady Red basketball, I knew we could do some special things. It’s almost been even a little more wild than what I dreamed of.”
Entering Saturday’s game, just four teams had scored more than four points against Liberal. Ninth-ranked Hugoton scored 42 and Dodge City was able to score at least 42 twice. Great Bend had just 13 points on the board midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game.
There are three unbeaten teams left in the 6A west substate. All have been tremendous defensively, but Liberal sits second in that group with 32 points allowed per game.
“It’s been crucial,” said Kruger. “We knew we had a really good chance to be in a tiebreaker with a couple other teams. The tiebreaker is defensive points allowed so we put a ton of focus on being able to get stops and keeping the other teams from being able to put the ball in the basket. Fortunately we showed up with a ton of energy tonight and we played some great defense.”
In a physical game against the Panthers, Liberal led just 7-2 after one quarter. Senior Machia Mullens hit an early three but was taken out of the mix in the second quarter with a second personal foul early on. Offensively, sophomore Bree Horyna did her part with seven points in the second quarter. Defensively, Liberal held Great Bend to just 3 of 13 shooting in the first half and forced 11 turnovers. The result was a 21-7 lead by halftime.
Lady Redskin junior Alex Lopez had four steals on the night but she took each one for points, including an early basket and foul to open the second half. That capped an 11-0 Liberal run before Great Bend junior Sydney Unruh converted a long 2-pointer. Liberal junior Aubrey Warden answered that basket with an offensive board that turned into a 3-point play.
Liberal senior Katie Horyna added an exclamation point to the third quarter with a step-back three that rolled in at the buzzer. With a 34-13 lead, Lopez took another of her steals the distance to open the fourth quarter. A triple from Coby Tran gave the Lady Red a 39-13 lead. Great Bend eventually found some points but Liberal was able to set up the running clock with a 30-point lead in the waning seconds of the game.
Unruh did most of the scoring for Great Bend with 10 points. Ashlyn Harbaugh added four points, and Jenna Mauler grabbed seven boards to go with a late 3-pointer.
Katie Horyna scored nine of her 11 points in the second half for Liberal. Bree Horyna added 10 points, and Mullens and Warden each finished with nine points and five rebounds. Ashley Carillo scored seven points.
At 5-15 overall, Great Bend will sneak into the Class 5A substate bracket as the No. 16 seed. Liberal has locked a top-three spot in Class 6A and will host a substate. The Lady Red will look to close out a perfect regular season Tuesday at Garden City. Liberal won the first meeting 51-15.