The Ingalls Bulldogs needed to win a whole extra game before they faced the Kiowa County Mavericks Thursday night.
When the two finally got to play, Ingalls gave Kiowa County a scare.
The Mavericks beat the Bulldogs 56-49 Thursday night in the 2018 SPIAA Basketball Tournament, ending the Bulldogs run in the tournament semifinals.
The Bulldogs had to overcome Ashland, and knocked off 3-seed South Gray as recently as Monday night.
Thursday night against Kiowa County, they shot their way into contention, trailing by as few as four with 3:43 left in the game, the score then 48-44. They had stretches where they hit multiple 3’s to close gaps on the scoreboard, like when they tied the game at 7-7 early in the first, or when they hit back-to-back 3’s in the third, cutting a 36-26 deficit to 36-32.
All night long it was a prevailing theme for the Bulldogs: Fall behind a little ways, then force a turnover, hit a couple of shots, and be back seemingly within a shot or two of taking the lead.
Their fight was one head coach Thomas Derstein expected. The Mavericks and Bulldogs had played earlier in the season on Kiowa County’s home-court, and the Mavericks had rolled he said.
But he said he also knew they were a good team, and had a feeling they’d get hot coming into this tournament.
“I’ve been telling everyone all year that Ingalls is that team that’s gonna surprise people in the league tournament, because they’re young, and I knew they were gonna come together right about at tournament-time and find a way to upset someone,” Derstein said. “And I told the girls this week that we’re playin Ingalls on Thursday. I knew they’d beat South Gray.”
They’re well coached, and have good players he said.
“That’s what I expected,” Derstein said.
Kiowa County, however, didn’t play perfectly Thursday night.
“Our girls, we didn’t shoot well at all,” Derstein said. “Ingalls shot really well, but we just kept fighting, kept doing our thing and I’m just really proud of ‘em.”
The Mavericks really shined on defense Thursday, at times suffocating the Bulldogs.
“That’s where everything starts for us,” Derstein said. “If we don’t play good defense we don’t play good offense.”
In the first half the team was a step slow, he said, and the same was true on offense in the second half. They made some adjustments though.
“The girls really showed that they’re a team that’s played together a lot,” Derstein said. “We’ve got five seniors, four of those seniors have been playing for me since they were freshmen, so they’ve got experience and they really stepped it up in the second half defensively, and that caused us to get enough points to win.”
From start to finish, the team also worked hard, which helped things go their way, even if they couldn’t shoot well.
Going into Saturday’s game, Derstein wants his team to improve its consistency and focus on defense.
“There was a couple of times that they hit 3’s because our hands were down,” Derstein said. “I don’t care if you’re tired or not, we don’t run all the time in practice to give up a 3. I mean there was two or three times that we were right within three feet, but our hands were down. We talk about that a lot, and they made three 3’s with a girl right on ‘em and it’s because our hands were down.”
The Mavericks take on South Central in the 2018 SPIAA Basketball Tournament girls championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday.