TOPEKA — St. Thomas Aquinas coach Rick Hetzel said before his No. 1 seeded Saints met No. 8 seed Leavenworth in the Class 5A girls quarterfinals at the Topeka Expocentre. “This is a tough match up for us because they are so physical.”
By CHARLES REDFIELD
Special to The Star
And he was proved prophetic.
Aquinas needed all the muscle it could muster to win 54-47 in double overtime.
The game was tied at the end of regulation play at 36-36 and 41-41 after the first overtime.
For the Pioneers, it was an evening of missed opportunities. They had the ball at the end of regulation and the first overtime but were unable to score.
The Saints took over in the second overtime hitting nine-of-12 from the free throw line.
It was Kendra Weledji who proved to be the difference in the game. She just had two points in the first half, but ended the game with a game-high 25 points. She was 11-of-13 from the charity stripe.
The 5-10 junior was six-of-13 from the floor and two-of-three behind the three-point line.
“She’s a good player,” Hetzel said. “She really stepped it up in the second half.”
It was her two free throws with 3:15 left in the second overtime that gave the Saints the lead for good. Junior Kelly Sweeney connected on two free throws at the 2:09 mark to make it a four-point game and sophomore Claire Ferguson hit a shot under the basket for a six-point lead with 1:33 left.
6-2 sophomore Tyler Johnson paced the Pioneers with 20 points, and senior Rashayla Mathis added 14.
The Saints won the rebounding battle 23-21 with Ferguson pulling down nine and Weledji seven.
Hetzel was pleased with his team in the overtimes.
“That was fun,” he said. “This is something they will always remember.”
This was the 19th consecutive trip to the state tournament for the Saints (22-1) and a state record for consecutive trips to state. Leavenworth finished with a 14-9 record in the Pioneers first year in 5A.
The Saints will meet Newton (19-4) in the semifinals Friday at 3 p.m.
Mill Valley 38, Salina South 28
Mill Valley scored the first eight points in the fourth quarter to turn a 20-19 third quarter deficit into a 27-20 lead with 5:08 left in the game as the Jaguars went on to victory.
It was the first state tournament victory for Mill Valley in the school’s first trip to the tournament.
Senior Stephanie Lichtenaur scored on a 10-foot shot on the left baseline 35 seconds into the quarter to give the Jaguars the lead.
After a timeout, junior Carly Eaton drove the lane, making the basket, and was fouled. She made the free throw with 5:54 left in the game.
“We talked in the timeout about attacking the defense,” Coach John McFall said.
On the Jaguars’ next possession, senior McKenzie Koch drove the lane with the same result — a basket and a made throw making it 27-20 with 5:08 remaining in the contest.
Mill Valley led 11-10 at the intermission.
Lichtenaur was the leading scorer with 14 points and a team-high six rebounds. Tripp added nine points.
“We have seniors who have been in a number of close games,” McFall said. “We have a lot of resilience.”
Senior Megan Holloway paced Salina South with 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
The victory was the 18th in a row for the Jaguars.
Kapaun-Mount Carmel 54, Bishop Miege 41
In a battle of title-holders, defending state champion Wichita Kapaun eliminated 16-time state champion Bishop Miege.
The Stags (17-6) scored the first seven points in the game and led 12-8 at the end of the first quarter.
The Crusaders (20-3) outscored the Stags 15-6 in the second quarter to take a 23-18 advantage into the halftime intermission.
Kapaun moved the advantage to 32-22 in the first four minutes of the third quarter and led 39-30 entering the last quarter.
They extended the lead to 45-30 in the four minutes.
The Stags’ full-court pressing defense caused some turnovers and they were able to cut the margin to seven with 2:26 left in the game, but couldn’t get any closer.
The Stags didn’t have a good shooting night. They were just 15-of-50 from the field and three-of-15 behind the three-point line.
The Crusaders had three players in double figures, led by junior Sydney Kuhn with 13. Senior Hannah Lienhard added 12 and sophomore Grace Hagan, 10.
Senior Lexie Villegas and junior Lexi Hughes had 12 points each for the Stags, who saw their seven-game winning streak snapped.
Wichita Kapaun meets first-time semifinalist Mill Valley at 6:30 on Friday.