There was a three-minute stretch of the second quarter in the Class 1A-Division II girls state championship game where the Norwich Lady Eagles scored 12 points.
It was the only time their offense showed any signs of life as the Ingalls Lady Bulldogs gave up only four field goals in the other 29 minutes to beat the Lady Eagles 37-22 to complete an unbeaten season and claim the state title at Fort Hays State University's Gross Auditorium.
"It feels awesome," said Deisy Estrada, one of only two seniors on the unbeaten squad. "If it wasn't for the team, there's no way we could be here right now. We're undefeated champions and not too many teams can say that. The freshmen have brought us up and we have brought them up. We helped each other together and became state champs.
"(Ingalls head) Coach (Roger Thurlow) knows what he's talking about and we're also here because of him."
Tara Whipple, the other senior on the squad, scored 10 of her 12 points in the first half to carry the Lady Bulldogs offense on her back.
"As being the senior point guard, I needed to take over when times are tough and I hope I did a little bit for the team," Whipple said. As for her thoughts of winning the state title, she said words couldn't describe how she felt. "It's a pretty amazing feeling. I'm still trying to make everything sink it. It feels like a dream right now."
The Lady Bulldogs had talked about missed opportunities in their semifinal contest the last couple of years in finishing fourth and third in the past two state tournaments and have spent the winter with the goal of being state champions (the second state championship for Ingalls to go along with their 1984 Eight-Man state football title). The Ingalls players understood it was going to take a strong defensive stand to achieve their goal. They came up with perhaps their best defensive effort of the season.
Norwich was 9-of-32 as a team, but 4-of-26 outside of the three-minute run. The Lady Eagles committed 22 turnovers which were turned into 18 Ingalls points.
That concept is extremely hard for a team to buy into, but Thurlow said the Lady Bulldogs bought into it and what got them all of their goals this season.
"This was up there because we've shut down some pretty good offenses all year," Thurlow said. "The girls put down the clamps on a lot because they run and they rebound and run some more. It's a lot of commitment because, no doubt, it takes from their offensive game. Some of the reasons we don't play offense as well is because we've used all of our energy on defense. We know offense will come and go, but if we hold teams to low points, then we have a shot every game we play.
Page 2 of 3 - "The fun part of basketball is scoring, but I think they're all having fun winning this."
The Lady Bulldogs also had a number of offensive rebounds to keep the ball away from their opponents. Although Norwich outrebounded the Lady Bulldogs in the final total 27-25, it was the Ingalls players who blocked out to keep the Lady Eagles from getting many second chances.
"Coach says the two things that will keep you in games is defense and rebounding," said junior post Rebecca Wyatt. "All of us had to crash boards and play hard on defense. Those are the two things we have to do to win games and, luckily, we were able to do that to get where we are now."
Freshman guard Kaisha Batman added nine points and Hope Beach came off the bench to add seven in the win.
Macy Stephens came off the bench to score eight points, while Mackenzie Klaver scored seven points and grabbed 16 rebounds and Haley Rust scored all six of her points during the Lady Eagles' second quarter run.
The Lady Bulldogs was the dominant team in the first quarter. Ingalls forced nine Norwich turnovers (seven steals) and eight of its points in the stanza came off of turnovers. The Lady Eagles were 0-of-5 from the field and trailed 10-1 by the end of the period.
Ingalls increased their lead to 14-1 two minutes into the second quarter before Norwich made its first basket on a jumper by Rust. That set off a 12-2 run for the Lady Eagles as they cut the deficit to three late in the half before the Lady Bulldogs scored the final three points of the half to lead 19-13 at intermission.
Neither team could get its offense going in the third quarter. Stephens scored all six points for the Lady Eagles while Ingalls scored two field goals and three free throws to extend the lead to 26-19 by the end of the stanza.
NORWICH (22) – Haley Rust 3-6 0-0 6, Olivia Vavra 0-0 0-0 0, Bailey Poe 0-8 1-2 1, Mackenzie Klaver 2-6 2-2 7, Hayley Poljansek 0-0 0-0 0, Ashten Hall 0-0 0-0 0, Derian Garrison 0-2 0-0 0, Macy Stephens 4-10 0-0 8, Jordyn Stephens 0-0 0-2 0, Ashton Garrison 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 9-32 3-6 22.
INGALLS (37) – Deisy Estrada 0-3 0-0 0, Kaisha Batman 2-9 5-8 9, Tara Whipple 4-8 4-5 12, Rebecca Wyatt 3-11 0-0 6, Bulma Galaviz 1-3 1-2 3, Hope Beach 3-7 1-4 7, Julissa Andazola 0-0 0-0 0, Jordyn Cure 0-0 0-0 0, Jasmine Renick 0-0 0-0 0, Rachel Droste 0-0 0-0 0, Amy Loewen 0-0 0-0 0, Kendra Tremmel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-41 11-19 37.
Norwich 1 12 6 3 – 22
Ingalls 10 9 7 11 – 37
Three-point baskets – Norwich 1-5 (Klaver 1-1, Poe 0-2, M. Stephens 0-2), Ingalls 0-3 (Estrada 0-2, Whipple 0-1). Rebounds – Norwich 27 (Klaver 16), Ingalls 25 (Batman 9). Records – Norwich 24-2, Ingalls 26-0.
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