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STATE BOUND! Lady Redskins get two late threes in 34-32 win PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 04 March 2018 09:40


Katie Horyna drives to the basket for a shot Saturday night in The Big House against Goddard int eh Sub-State championship. Horyna scored 13 points to lead Liberal to a 34-32 win. L&T photo/Earl Watt


• Leader & Times

After struggling to hit from outside most of the night, Whitney Hay and Ali Lucero delivered two three pointers in the final five minutes of Saturday’s Sub-State championship, and those shots provided the final momentum the Lady Redskins needed to knock off Goddard 34-32 and send Liberal to the Class 5A State Basketball Tournament.

“We showed a lot of guts and heart,” Liberal coach Carter Kruger said. “Losing the lead in the third quarter like that and having kid after kid step up in the fourth quarter was impressive. We didn’t play our best game, but we got the W, and that’s all that counts.”

After leading 16-10 at half, Machia Mullens opened the second half with Liberal’s first three of the game, but it turned out to be the only points Liberal scored in the period.

Mullens was whistled for her third foul two possessions later, and she headed to the bench.

Without a threat inside, and the three shots not falling, Liberal’s offense sputtered while the Lady Lions chipped away for a 12-0 run that erased Liberal’s advantage and sent Goddard to the fourth quarter with a 22-19 lead.

“Machia hits that three and we’re thinking, ‘Here we go,’” Kruger said. “But their defense really kept us out of the lane. We were a little fatigued. They kept us out of the lane until the fourth quarter.”

Mullens returned to the floor to hit two free throws to cut Goddard’s lead to one, and Katie Horyna put Liberal ahead with a drive to the basket.

But a pair of Goddard free throws gave Goddard the lead with 5:20 to play before Ali Lucero was fouled on a drive to the basket, and after her free throws, Liberal went back in front, 25-24.

Liberal forced a stop on the next possession, and after a frustrating night from the perimeter, Hay connected on a three pointer that brought the Big House crowd to its feet.

Goddard quickly drove to the basket to draw the fourth foul on Mullens and cut the lead back to two, and then Lucero delivered on a right corner three with 3:15 to play to push the lead to five, 31-26.

Goddard didn’t fold despite the fevered pitch inside The Big House. Instead, they responded with two more free throws and a basket to cut Liberal’s lead to one, 31-30, with 1:40 to play.

The Lady Redskins started to melt the clock, and Horyna was fouled and sent to the line, but she only made her first shot.

Goddard had a chance to tie, but a turnover put the ball back in the hands of Horyna, and she was fouled. She missed the front end of her one and one, but freshman Aubrey Warden came up with the rebound of the game, kicking the ball back to Horyna who passed to Mullens, and she was fouled.

Mullens made both free throws with 17.7 seconds to play, giving the Lady redskins a 34-30 lead.

The Lady Lions again turned the ball over, and with only 8.7 seconds remaining and no more time outs for the Lady Lions, Kruger told his players to let Goddard have the ball. The Lady Lions made an uncontested shot as time expired, and the Lady Redskins won the Sub-State championship with a 34-32 win.

“We shoot better when we are in a pressure situation,” Kruger said. “We definitely were in the fourth quarter. And we made big one after big one, and then some free throws to seal it.”

After losing the Sub-State title game a year ago, with then freshmen Mullens, Horyna, Audrey Gilmore and junior Lucero on the roster, it was a goal for Kruger to get this group to the state tournament. Last year’s standout Jada Mickens was also on hand to see her former team get over the hump that kept her from a state appearance last year.

“It’s awesome,” Kruger said. “Our kids deserve it. Our kids work harder than almost any kids I’ve been around — high school level, college level. They spend a lot of time, and it paid off for them tonight. I am so proud how they gutted it out.”

Goddard’s game plan almost worked to perfection in the third quarter, but Liberal finally got the ball to the rim and never gave up on the outside shooters. And in the fourth, they delivered.

When the final buzzer sounded and the hands were shaken, the Rowdy Crowd mobbed the Lady Redskins in a celebration that continued for more than an hour before the last person left The Big House.

Horyna led Liberal with 13 points. Mullens had seven in the defensive battle.

Now, the Lady Redskins (21-1) move on to the state tournament where they will face St. James Academy (8-14) in the opening round. The Thunder pulled off two upsets to win a ticket to state, including a 55-51 win over third-seeded Lansing (16-6). The game will be played at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Expocentre in Topeka.

“We try to make it normal,” Kruger said. “We try to make it like Game 1. It’s a big deal, but you try to keep it consistent.”




About The High Plains Daily Leader

The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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