By CONOR NICHOLL
EMPORIA -- In coach Brad Roadhouse's eyes, the Osborne High School girls' basketball team started Saturday's third-place game playing loose and relaxed. Then, Roadhouse said the Bulldogs "played a little stupid" and fell down by seven points with seven minutes left. Roadhouse asked his team to slow things down and play smart.
"We can get back into this," he said.
Osborne went on a 12-0 run over a three and half minute stretch early in the fourth quarter en route to an 48-40 victory against St. Paul at Emporia State University's White Auditorium.
The No. 5 seed Bulldogs finished the season at 21-4 and completed a terrific year for a close-knit senior quartet of Baylee Wolters, Taylor Noel, Jessica Princ and Caitlyn Miller. Little-used freshman Allison Grabast helped seal the win with a big game.
"We just weren't going to let it get away," Miller said. "We are so emotional about this sport."
Before the on-court postgame trophy presentation, Osborne's seniors wore smiles and had tears of joy. The seniors continually posed for photos for family and friends outside the Bulldog locker room following the contest.
"They are all smiles today," Roadhouse said. "It's been a great day."
The Bulldogs, sub-.500 when the seniors were freshmen and sophomores, finished with 16 victories last winter before the five-win improvement this year. The seniors had played together since elementary school.
Miller is expected to play basketball at Kansas Wesleyan University, while Noel is expected to play tennis for KWU. Princ is likely headed to Sterling College for basketball.
"It's really bittersweet," said Miller, who had a game-high 21 points. "We are kind of sad that it's over with, but it's good. It feels great to end on a win."
Osborne and St. Paul (22-4) were tied at 15 at halftime.
No. 3 seed St. Paul, paced by 10 points from Josie Albertini, led 31-26 entering the fourth quarter and 33-26 with seven minutes left. Then, Miller and Princ -- who each averaged 16 points per game this year -- took over the contest.
Miller made her second trey of the game, then had a conventional 3-point play.
Princ (12 points) collected two steals and a basket off a Noel assist within 90 seconds. Miller gave Osborne a 36-33 lead with 4:24 left on a basket inside.
"We got the ball inside to Jess, and we got a foul and we got the ball inside to Caitlyn, and we got a foul, and we were able to get right back in it," Roadhouse said. "Then, it seemed to me like we gathered some energy and we were able to finish."
Osborne normally goes just six deep, but Grabast stepped up to play 20 minutes and scored four points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Entering state, Grabast collected 11 points and 36 rebounds all season.
"She was very crucial to our team, especially there towards the end," Miller said. "I was so proud of her, what she did, and she had confidence going into it."
Roadhouse played Grabast more early in the winter, but she hadn't seen much time late in the year and logged just two minutes versus Hoxie in the semifinal.
Roadhouse had "a feeling" about Grabast on Saturday morning. He put her in the game early and asked her to play defense and rebound. Roadhouse believed Osborne wouldn't have won the game without Grabast.
"She did an excellent job," Roadhouse said. "....It seems to me like she doesn't get nervous like some of the other girls seem to at times."
In the fourth quarter, Grabast grabbed three rebounds and tallied four points in the final 23.5 seconds to seal the victory.
"One of our goals was to be here, and we wanted to end on a win," Miller said.