Thunder Ridge suffers loss in first round; Hoxie rolls
Published on -3/7/2013, 10:00 AM
By ERNIE W. WEBB III
Special to the Hays Daily News
EMPORIA -- Trailing by double digits with a minute left, Kensington-Thunder Ridge High School girls' basketball coach Darren Grauerholz pulled Shaylin Webb aside and told her to shoot a 3-pointer from the right wing on the next possession.
The freshman obliged, launching a 25-footer that didn't find the net in the Longhorns' 45-32 loss to Bucklin in the opening round of the Class 1A Division I state tournament.
Webb looked at her coach apologetically, and Grauerholz shrugged his shoulders, saying, "Hey, we're OK, we had to try something different."
It was that kind of night for Thunder Ridge, which struggled from start to finish offensively, including a decisive six-minute drought in the third quarter of a close game.
"We weren't patient at all tonight, and that's really been a problem all year," Grauerholz said. "For our offense to work, we cannot speed up. We have to slow down and let things develop. We never did that tonight."
The Longhorns (18-5) led 22-20 at halftime, but went cold during a stretch in the third and fourth quarters. Bucklin (18-5) held Thunder Ridge scoreless from the 1:15 mark of the third period to the 3:28 mark of the fourth.
While the Longhorns cooled off, the Red Aces' Morgan Hood heated up. The junior guard drilled three 3-pointers during a 17-6 run, including a pair of shots from at least five feet behind the line.
"When she's on, she can hit them from just about anywhere," said Bucklin coach Craig Bowman. "Tonight she got confident and hit some big shots. She made them from as far out as she did because they weren't giving her much else."
Thunder Ridge trailed 32-28 going into the fourth quarter, but Bucklin's Janae Price connected on a trey a minute into the quarter, and Hood followed with a conventional 3-point play to extend the lead to double digits.
"I changed our defense a little too late," said Grauerholz, who switched to a combination of zone and man, with Webb shadowing Hood. "I obviously should have gone to that in the first half, but we were doing a good job on her in the first half. She just got hot."
Thunder Ridge started slowly, going more than four minutes without a point in the first quarter as Bucklin built a 13-4 lead. But the Longhorns rallied at the end of the period, pulling within 13-9.
Webb's putback midway through the second quarter gave Thunder Ridge its first lead, and the teams traded baskets until Caitlin Boden scored late for a two-point edge at halftime.
"We had a great season, and I'm really proud of these girls for getting this far," Grauerholz said. "They're hurting and they don't realize what they've accomplished yet. We could have felt like this last week at sub-state. I'd rather feel like that at state than at sub-state."
Brittany Kirchhoff had 12 points and seven rebounds, while Kristen Burger had seven points and nine boards for Thunder Ridge. Hood had 20 points, and Price and Alexis Cossell 11 each for Bucklin.
Hoxie 81 South Haven 36
The fact the defending champion led by 24 points late in the second quarter mattered little to Hoxie coach Shelly Hoyt. Clearly annoyed with her team's play, the longtime coach called a 30-second timeout.
"I was not pleased with the way we were playing defense; that's not how we do it at Hoxie," said Hoyt, whose team faces St. John-Hudson, a squad the Indians defeated in the title game last season, at 3 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. "We were bailing them out way too often, and I thought we needed to refocus."
The Indians took their coach's words to heart, hounding the seventh-seeded Cardinals into 32 turnovers and 21-percent shooting.
"We played better after the timeout," Hoyt said. "We're relaxed -- I just hope not too relaxed. Being here and winning it last year has helped us. The girls know we're going to get everybody's best shot."
While Hoyt wasn't pleased with her team's play much of the second quarter, the Indians (24-0) led from start to finish, using a 16-2 run during the final five minutes of the first quarter to build a 21-5 lead.
South Haven, the seventh seed, had more turnovers (20) than points in the opening two quarters, trailing 42-17 at the break.
"When you hit 20 turnovers or more against that team, and we did that fast, you're in trouble," said South Haven coach Eric Adams. "You simply cannot do that against a team like Hoxie. That is an awfully good group they've got over there."
The Indians also hurt the Cardinals from 3-point range, connecting on six in the first half, including three by Gabriel Spresser. The 5-foot-7 junior led six Hoxie players in double figures with 18 points.
Kristina Farber added 17 points, eight rebounds and five steals, while Danel Stithem had 13 points, eight boards and five steals. Carly Heim and Terran Hoyt had 10 points each.