By MIKE KESSINGER
One of the main goals Hays High coach Kirk Maska had set for his team in its opening round game of their Class 4A Division I sub-state against Buhler was to get Jessica Steffen into foul trouble early.
Mission accomplished. The Crusaders' point guard and leading scorer picked up her second foul 1, minute, 19 seconds into the contest at HHS gym Friday.
With neither team scoring yet, the Indians could have felt pretty good at that point. The problem was, Buhler simply went to work and scored the first 19 points of the game. From there, the Crusaders cruised into Saturday's title game against McPherson with a 57-23 win.
"Usually it takes us a couple minutes in the beginning to find our rhythm," Buhler senior Alex Keller said. "Once we find it -- we can really carry it away."
Led by Keller, Buhler (17-4) dominated from two minutes into the game until the end of the third quarter. Keller scored the Crusaders' first seven points on her way to a game-high 21. The Indians didn't have an answer to Buhler's offensive attack and didn't score their first points until a Maddie Keller layup with 2:13 left in the first quarter. By then it was too much of Buhler's strength to overcome.
"We were trying to take (Steffen) out of the game," Maska said of the opening part of the game. "We were thinking we had a good opportunity to get her into foul trouble and we got two quick fouls on her and we didn't attack. After a couple minutes if a couple shots would have fell it might have been a different story, but there's a reason they've won as many games as they have."
Steffen, who averages 19 points a game, molded into the Buhler's charge and scored when needed while keeping her teammates well involved as she stayed in the game after picking up her second foul.
Hays High (5-16) scored just three field goals in the first half and was just 7-of-17 at the free throw line.
A Keller 3-pointer put the Crusaders up 54-13 in the third quarter. The game went to a running clock in the final eight minutes and the Indians scored nine points in the stretch, while Buhler did not score.
(Buhler) has a really good inside presence too, but the Keller girl shot the ball really well," Maska said. "We just didn't have any answers. We had a full week of work to try some things and it just wasn't there for us."
Hays High was led by junior Audra Schmeidler with nine points.
Along with Keller's 21 points. Steffen finished with 14.
The win put Buhler into the sub-state championship game against McPherson on Saturday at HHS gym. The two teams split their regular season meetings.