Laci Rush charges through the lane while four Ark City defenders converge Tuesday in a Sub State playoff game between Liberal and Ark City. The Lady Redskins jumped out to a 16-point lead and held on for a 36-28 win. L&T photo/Earl Watt
By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
With a 16-point lead late in the third quarter, the Lady Redskins appeared to be cruising to the second round of the Class 5A Sub State playoffs, but Liberal went nine minutes without scoring, and Ark City cut the lead to three before the Lady Redskins made five of seven free throws in the final 42 seconds to secure a 36-28 win.
For a moment, the game eerily resembled last year’s Sub State match-up with Maize. The Lady Redskins had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter but lost.
Not this time.
Liberal led 29-13 with 3:35 to play in the third quarter when Ark City put together an 11-0 run to cut the lead to 29-24.
Jada Mickens finally broke the drought with a basket with 2:56 to play, and it was only Liberal’s fourth field goal of the entire second half, and it would be the last.
Ark City’s Destiny Steward scored the next four points for the Lady Bulldogs, and with 1:18 to go, Liberal’s lead was down to 31-28.
Ark City started to foul, and Katie Horyna missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Machia Mullens rebounded with 42.8 seconds to play and was fouled. She made both shots, and after another Ark City foul, Audrey Gilmore made two free throws with 32.8 seconds to play to give the Lady redskins a 35-28 lead.
Whitney Hay added the final free throw with 10.3 seconds, and the Lady Redskins were able to advance with a 36-28 win.
Liberal scored eight points form the field in the second half and seven from the free throw line.
Mullens led the Lady Redskins with 16 points, and Mickens had 15.
“We could have played better,” Liberal coach Carter Kruger said. “ Our defense held up. Our kids found a way to get it done We know we have a lot more in us, we are just happy for another chance to play Friday night.”
Liberal leaned on the defense while the offense sputtered, something that has not happened much this season.
“It came down to making shots,” Kruger said. “We didn’t make very many shots. We didn’t finish around the rim very well. We got into a funk offensively, and good thing it happened tonight and not against a team we will see Friday night.”
While the Lady Redskins knocked off Ark City, Bishop Carroll defeated Great Bend 66-31. The Lady Eagles will travel to Liberal Friday to face the Lady Redskins with a trip to the Class 5A State Tournament on the line.
Tip is 7 p.m. Friday in The Big House.