Lady Saints win 5A State and continue legacy of victory
With a 39-38 win over Leavenworth in the 5A state championship, the Lady Saints brought home the hardware for the fifth time in school history and the first since 2013. The team finished with an overall record of 20 wins and 5 loses.
Before the season started, the team lost two of its five starters, senior Rhyann Fisher and junior Jenna Steichen, due to ACL tears.
“You feel bad for the team, but feel worse for the player,” Head Girls Basketball Coach Rick Hetzel said.
The team lost confidence when they lost Fisher and it became difficult to believe they could keep the streak of 22 straight appearances at State alive.
The goals for the team remained high, though. The goal was to win EKL and win State. The road would be difficult without Fisher and Steichen, but the team started to believe they could after getting first place in the Topeka Heights tournament.
“The team’s expectation was to take each game one at a time and focus on that game until it comes to the next,” Fisher said. “There was no looking ahead.”
After the tournament, Hetzel said the team realized they could win and it was a big motivation boost for the team. The underclassmen on the team started to embrace their roles more and became more comfortable with playing.
“We all understood our role on the court and what we needed to do individually to be successful as a team,” senior Allison Koster said.
The playoff streak was extended after beating rival St. James. The team went into State being the eighth and highest seed.
When it comes to the seeding, the matchups are what Hetzel looked at. It’s about how you can match up against the other teams.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Lady Saints faced off against Schlagle and trailed 16-9 at halftime. After halftime, the Saints started to get hot, tying the game just before going into the fourth quarter. With four minutes left in the game, the Saints got a lead and did not let go. They went on to win the game 43-37, earning a trip to the second round to face Salina Central.
In the second round, the Saints battled hard to keep the game close in the first half, but in the last few minutes of the half the Saints went on a 7-0 run to extend the lead to 19-15. After half, the Saints got a big momentum boost from a three on the baseline from Koster, and the team never looked back and won 48-36. The team went on to championship game against Leavenworth.
During the state title game, the Saints got out to a hot start and led the game by 16 at halftime. After half, Leavenworth’s press came and caused havoc for the Saints, cutting into the lead little by little until the game was tied at 38-38 with less than one minute left. Leavenworth then had the dagger ready to drain the hopes of the Saints when they had a chance for an open layup with less than a minute left. They missed it, however, giving the Saints the chance to win.
With the ball, Koster was fouled and went to the free throw line, she was the one the team wanted on the line. As soon as she shot, they know it would go in. With a one point lead, Leavenworth had one last chance with 2.2 seconds left, but could not make it happen, and the Lady Saints became the 5A state champions.
“I’m going to enjoy this forever,” Koster said.