Throughout the second quarter, the St. Thomas Aquinas girls basketball team played as if it were overmatched against No. 1 seed Schlagle. The Saints scored only two points and went into halftime trailing by seven.
Led by Allison Koster, the only senior on Aquinas roster, the Saints put together a solid second half and beat Schlagle 43-37 Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Kansas 5A state basketball tournament at the Kansas Expocentre.
Aquinas, 18-5, returns to action 3 p.m. Friday in the semifinals against Salina Central. Schlagle finished 19-4.
The third quarter started with Koster making a three-pointer, which pulled Aquinas within four at 16-12. It also loosened the Saints up offensively. Sophomore Sereena Weledji followed with a three-point play.
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In less than a minute, the Saints had already scored three times as many points as they did in the second quarter.
Koster said it wasn’t necessarily her responsibility to score right away in the third quarter.
“It was my job to get the team going again and do what we do best, and get back in the game,” said Koster, who finished with a game-high 20 points. “After we got those points, we felt more like our old self, and we got stops when we needed to.”
Aquinas finally took a 24-22 lead on a basket by Koster and went into the final quarter ahead 25-24.
The Stallions briefly regained the lead at 29-28 midway through the fourth quarter. But Aquinas scored the next six points for a five-point lead with 2 minutes left.
Koster put the game away when she made two free throws with 21 seconds left, increasing the Saints lead to 41-35.
Leavenworth 42, Newton 40
A three-peat remains alive for the Leavenworth girls in the Kansas 5A tournament.
After scoring one point in the first quarter, Leavenworth turned up its fullcourt pressure and saw Newton wilt for an eight-minute stretch. The Pioneers held Newton to one point in the second quarter and went into halftime ahead by two.
Leavenworth never trailed again in the quarterfinal game. Leavenworth, 19-4, will play at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals.
The Pioneers lost three post players from last year’s team who all signed Division I scholarships to play basketball.
“We had so many people tell us we can’t do it without our bigs,” said Leavenworth junior Zoie Hayward. “We had so many people tell us we weren’t going to make it this far. We made it this far, and we are going all the way.”
Pioneers, which won the 5A title the past two seasons, fell behind 10-1 after the first quarter. The only point was a free throw by senior Alicia Brown.
The roles reversed in the second quarter as Leavenworth outscored Newton 12-1. The Pioneers went into halftime ahead 13-11. They forced Newton into 17 turnovers in the first half.
“We went to our huddle and none of us freaked out,” said Hayward, who scored 11 points. “We were OK. Our shots weren’t falling. It happens. We said we are going to come back this quarter and put the pressure on defense and get some easy layups and go from there.”
Leavenworth appeared to have a comfortable 35-26 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but the Railers fought back, closing 38-36. Newtown missed a layup with a minute left that would have tied the game.
Salina Central 55, Mill Valley 43
Mill Valley started the fourth quarter with a field goal that broke a tie, but it struggled on offense the rest of the way in the loss to Salina Central in a Kansas 5A girls quarterfinal game.
The big difference in the game was all five Salina Central starters were able to score, led by 14 points from Casey Knoth and 12 from Emma Cain. Another starter scored nine for the Mustangs and the final two starters each scored eight.
In a sharp contrast, the bulk of Mill Valley’s points came from senior Catherine Kaifes, who finished with a game-high 25 points. Junior Ashlyn Hendrix added 11.
In the fourth quarter, Kaifes was held scoreless, and foul trouble limited Hendrix to a three-point play.
After Mill Valley took a 38-36 lead on that first basket of the fourth quarter, Salina Central went on an 8-0 run, getting points from three different players.
Mill Valley finished the season 18-5.