MANHATTAN – Hill City High School girls’ basketball coach Linda Nighswonger couldn’t contain the tears when asked about her senior class after Saturday’s season-ending 54-50 loss to Valley Falls during the Class 2A tournament at Bramlage Coliseum.

For the second straight day, the gritty Ringnecks pushed a team that entered the tourney undefeated before coming up a bit short.

“It’s hard because this has been such a great senior class, just a great group,” said Nighswonger, whose team finished 22-4. “We were right there again and just couldn’t finish. All of the teams are good at this point in the season, and we definitely had a tough draw.”

During the semifinals Friday, Hill City led two-time defending champion Central Plains deep into the fourth quarter before fading late. On Saturday, the Ringnecks led early in the fourth before the Dragons (25-1) went on a 10-0 run.

“They got hot for a few minutes in the fourth quarter, and we didn’t have an answer,” Nighswonger said. “Valley Falls is very good. We knew that after playing them here last year.”

Lexie McDowell, who scored 23 points in her final high school game, gave Hill City a 39-36 lead with a 3-pointer 25 seconds into the fourth quarter, but Valley Falls scored the next 10 points.

The Dragons, who were 1 of 19 from long range during Saturday’s semifinal loss to Olpe, hit two treys during the spurt.

“We were probably due after the way we shot last night,” said Valley Falls coach Todd Gish. “I was proud of the way both teams played today. It’s not easy to play this soon after losing the night before in a state tournament.”

The Ringnecks rallied twice in the final five minutes, pulling within one at 46-45 with 2:01 left and 51-50 with 18.6 seconds left on 3-pointers from Conner Keith and Adrianna Nickelson. But Valley Falls made three of four free throws in the final 16.5 seconds to hang on.

Keith’s three at the end of the first quarter gave Hill City a 15-11 edge, but the Dragons outscored the Ringnecks 15-6 in the second quarter and led 26-21 at the break.

“The second quarter has been a problem all season, and it got us again today,” Nighswonger said.

Amanda Conway had 10 points and four assists for Hill City. Jenna Kramer led Valley Falls with 20 points and seven rebounds.

Central Plains boys 56, Hill City 25

The Oilers showed no signs of a hangover from Friday’s disappointing loss to Sacred Heart in the semifinals, closing the first half with a 23-2 run to build in insurmountable lead.

Central Plains (25-1) outscored Hill City (18-8) 32-5 during a stretch from the 3:00 mark of the first quarter to midway through the third.

Braeden Crites led the Oilers with 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while Devin Ryan had 14 points. Tate Buchholz and Mekhei Bates had eight points each for the Ringnecks.

Boys

Central Plains 56, Hill City 25

Central Plains (25-1) — Crites 9-9 0-2 18, D. Ryan 2-7 8-9 14, Warnken 3-4 0-0 9, M. Ryan 2-8 2-4 6, Rugan 2-6 0-0 4, Hickel 1-1 0-0 2, Lewis 1-1 0-0 2, Kreft 0-3 1-2 1, Schlochtermeier 0-1 0-0 0, Barton 0-1 0-0 0, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Liebl 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-41 11-17 56.

Hill City (18-8) — Buchholz 3-10 0-0 8, Bates 3-7 2-3 8, Wilson 2-6 0-1 4, E. Brandyberry 1-2 0-0 3, Kyles 1-6 0-0 2, Vanloenen 0-1 0-0 0, Pimlott 0-1 0-0 0, A. Brandyberry 0-1 0-0 0, Journigan 0-1 0-0 0, Born 0-0 0-0 0, McDowell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-35 2-4 25.

Central Plains 17 13 11 15 — 56

Hill City 10 2 10 5 — 25

3-point goals — Central Plains 5-17 (Warnken 3-4, Ryan 2-7, Ryan 0-5, Schlochtermeier 0-1), Hill City 3-13 (Buchholz 2-7, E. Brandyberry 1-2, Wilson 0-1, Kyles 0-1, Bates 0-1, Pimlott 0-1. Rebounds – Central Plains 28 (Crites 9), Hill City 18 (Wilson 5). Assists – Central Plains 10 (Crites 4), Hill City 3 (Kyles, Bates, Vanloenen). Steals – Central Plains 4 (M. Ryan 2), Hill City 4 (Buchholz 2). Blocks – Central Plains 0, Hill City 2 (Buchholz, Kyles). Turnovers – Central Plains 9, Hill City 17). Total fouls — Central Plains 10, Hill City 15. Fouled out — Kyles.

Girls

Valley Falls 54, Hill City 50

Valley Falls (25-1) — Kramer 5-9 7-9 20, Kirkwood 3-7 2-5 9, Watson 2-5 3-4 7, Brown 2-3 2-4 7, Frakes 3-8 0-1 6, Gish 2-8 1-2 5, Pickerell 0-1 0-0 0, Harrington 0-0 0-2 0, Kearney 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-41 15-27 54.

Hill City (22-4) — McDowell 8-14 3-4 23, Conway 5-13 0-0 10, Keith 3-10 0-0 8, Nickelson 3-10 0-0 7, Jones 0-7 2-2 2, Simon 0-1 0-1 0, Bell 0-0 0-0 0, Kennedy 0-0 0-0 0, Russell 0-0 0-0 0, Albrecht 0-0 0-0 0.

Valley Falls 11 15 10 18 — 54

Hill City 15 6 15 14 — 50

3-point goals — Valley Falls 5-10 (Kramer 3-5, Brown 1-2, Kirkwood 1-1, Gish 0-1, Pickerell 0-1), Hill City 7-28 (McDowell 4-6, Keith 2-8, Nickelson 1-5, Conway 0-4, Jones 0-4, Simon 0-1). Rebounds – Valley Falls 38 (Watson 9), Hill City 28 (McDowell 7, Nickelson 7). Assists – Valley Falls 10 (Watson 3), Hill City 8 (Conway 4). Steals – Valley Falls 3 (Watson, Frakes, Kirkwood), Hill City 5 (Conway 2). Blocks – Valley Falls 1 (Kramer), Hill City 3 (McDowell 2). Total fouls — Valley Falls 14, Hill City 19. Fouled out — none.