After the boys teams played their first rounds in the 1A DII state basketball tournament on Wednesday, the girls teams took over United Wireless Arena for Thursday for their first-round games.
Here are how the games unfolded.
No. 2 Beloit-St. John’s/Tipton versus No. 7 Axtell
The Axtell Eagles and St. John’s/Tipton Blujays opened Thursday with possibly the most competitive game of the tournament up to that point.
Axtell prevailed 66-64 in regulation, narrowly avoiding having to play overtime after a St. John’s player missed a close layup with under five seconds left in regulation.
The combined 130 points the team scored was the most in the first five games of the 1A DII tournament. The highest total from the first day’s boys games was 112 points, which Sharon Springs-Wallace County and Moscow combined for in Wednesday’s third game.
But neither team scored a lot early.
The Blujays scored early to take a 2-0 lead. After that though, neither team scored until the Eagles hit a 3-pointer to take a 5-2 lead with 3:57 left in the first. After multiple lead-changes in the first, the Eagles led 11-10 at the end of the first.
Statistically it was a close game in nearly every measurement. Each team had five steals, each team had nine turnovers, each team had 38 total rebounds, 11 of which were offensive for Axtell and 10 of which were offensive for St. John’s.
Axtell head coach Abby Stueve pointed out how close the shooting percentages were, with St. John’s shooting 43.1 percent and Axtell shooting 41.1 percent.
“We kind of lost our composure there for a bit and I kind of reiterated we gotta play to win, we gotta take care of the ball and just play basketball,” Stueve said. “I thought we were able to make that adjustment, which was nice. We made that adjustment and continued to played hard all the way to the end.”
St. John’s was led by senior Avery Gates who had a game-high 22 points, and junior Kara Eilert who had a game-high 15 rebounds. Junior Elle Eilert had 12 rebounds for the Blujays.
Axtell Junior Hanna Schmitz had a team-high 20 points for the Eagles, while also matching sophomore Kinsey Feldkamp for a team-high eight rebounds.
Axtell will play at 3 p.m. Friday.
No. 3 Hartford versus No. 6 Hutchinson Central Christian
The Hartford Jaguars continued their historic season with a win Thursday, beating the Hutchinson Central Christian Cougars 53-42 Thursday night.
“This is our first trip to state for any girls program and that was the goal we had when I started coaching there,” Hartford head coach Ryan Thomas said.
It wasn’t the first time for Hartford as a school, he said, but certainly for the girls team.
“We’ve been here the past two years watching our boys play, so we’ve had the opportunity to kind of get an idea of what it’s like,” Thomas said. “You really don’t know what your team’s gonna give if you’ve never been here in this type of game or environment or how we were gonna come back.”
Central Christian was paced by sophomore Josie Ibarra, who had a team-high 15 points and a game-high five steals. Only two other teammates had one steal each, and Hartford didn’t record any in Thursday’s game. Freshman Ziya Simms had a team0high five rebounds and junior Rebecca Paine had a team-high three assists.
For Harford, senior Morgan Bolen led the way. She had game-highs in both points with 17 and rebounds with 15.
“That’s a typical day for Morgan Bolen really,” Thomas said.
She averages about 18.5 points per game he said.
“She’s one of the best in the state as far as I’m concerned,” Thomas said.
Though Hartford only led 15-14 at the end of the first quarter, the Jaguars outscored the Cougars 12-6 in the second quarter and 14-9 in the third to take a 41-29 lead into the fourth quarter.
“I think we relaxed a little more, more than usual,” Thomas said. “I still think we came out OK, but we relaxed a little more. We were able to get some stops defensively and the ball started falling in the hole for us a little bit, which got us some separation.”
With the win, the Jaguars advance to play against Axtell at 3 p.m. Friday.
No. 1 Cunningham versus No. 8 Sharon Springs-Wallace County
The Cunningham Wildcats beat the Sharon Springs-Wallace County Wildcats by a score of 57-33.
Cunningham led from wire to wire behind strong performances from freshman Morgan Meyers who had 24 points and junior Lauren Murphy, who had 12.
Head coach Eric Meyers said it was far from a perfect performance for his Wildcats. Despite the 57 points, Meyers said the offense could have been better.
“We really weren’t that efficient offensively like I’d like to be,” Meyers said. “We’re a little sharper than that.”
The team also committed too many turnovers he said. They finished with 17. Wallace County finished with 15.
“I’m not happy with that,” Meyers said. “I look at (the statistics) and 12 turnovers between my two guards and they’re usually pretty steady, so I guess there’s always something to work on. But I’m happy to be where I’m at, don’t get me wrong.”
The team can just play better he said.
“I was a little concerned because we’ve never been here before with these girls, first of all, and it’s a new environment and I think sometimes the offensive games for all teams (are) a little bit off because of the new surroundings,” Meyers said. “I was happy. I thought we kind of sputtered in the first quarter but we got things straightened out a little bit after that.”
Wallace County was paced by sophomore Haylee Hennick. She had team-highs of 10 points and 8 rebounds. Senior Sydni Allen had seven points and a team-high 4 assists.
Cunningham advances to play at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
No. 4 Quinter versus No. 5 Bucklin
The Bucklin Red Aces fell to the Quinter Bulldogs Thursday night by a score of 48-41.
Quinter seniors Peyton Havlas and Kyle Crist tied for a game-high 13 points. Senior Brittney Walt had a game-high 15 rebounds, followed closely by Havlas, whose 14 rebounds meant she had a double-double.
For the Red Aces, Freshman Catherine Bowman had a team-high 12 points, while senior Hannah Klusman finished with 10. Junior Patricia Hokanson finished with a team-high nine rebounds, followed closely by Klusman who had eight. Freshman Danae Scott had a team-high three rebounds.
Bucklin made the score close late after trailing by as many as 15, and even outscored Quinter 11-8 in the third quarter and 17-14 in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a 15-5 first quarter in which the Red Aces struggled to score early.
“I definitely thought we fought well, but obviously we weren’t prepared for what they threw at us defensively,” Red Aces head coach Craig Bowman said. “I think it kind of surprised us.”
Bowman said the Aces didn’t expect to guard a triangle offense with Catherine Bowman or Hokanson. Other players were also tight when shooting as well.
“It works great when we can make shots and then we get ‘em out of it, and we can play our game,” Bowman said. “But (Quinter) controlled the whole game with their defense, with their offense and I give ‘em total credit. That’s a good team, good senior-led team and it really showed. But with all that said, we don’t always do everything right, but we do it hard, and they finished that way. I was really proud of the way we finished.”
The 15-5 start was an example of how off-guard the Bulldogs caught the Red Aces. Bowman said he expected the team to hit shots after that start, knowing the team can’t get into its full-court defense until shots start to fall.
“Instead we were just getting back and playing half-court defense and they’ve got good half-court offense, good inside-outside look with (Kyle) Crist and (Peyton Havlas),” Bowman said.
The season ended for the Red Aces Thursday. They finished the season 15-9 overall.
Going forward into next season, the team will work on some of the basic basketball skills and improving those, Bowman said.
“Skill-work is always the last thing to come, the basketball skills offensively,” Bowman said. “That’s where we’re gonna have to put the work in, to develop better basketball skills, better shooting, passing, making good decisions. It just comes through repetition.”
Defensively he likes where the team is at, but offense and defense feed on one another. You can only defend so long, he said, when you struggle offensively and make what he estimated was at times one basket for every four times on offense.
“That’s hard, to defend that many times on your end of the floor,” Bowman said. “And then we go outrebounded today, which just compounds the issue.”