When Mike Allen became Olathe South head girls basketball coach in the fall, he inherited from Steve Ingram a roster full of seniors and a program that had not missed the Class 6A tournament in 12 years.
Allen had been Ingram’s understudy, an assistant to the longtime coach for seven years. He was no stranger to South’s team.
So when the Falcons went to work without Ingram for the first time in 27 years, at least they had a familiar face to keep them on track to the program’s 13th straight appearance at the state tournament.
But what Olathe South wanted more was a chance to win the title. The last time the Falcons came home with a championship trophy in tow was in 2010.
They just barely missed their shot. Olathe South’s frantic comeback from an 11-point deficit fell short in a 47-44 semifinal loss to Manhattan at Charles Koch Arena on Friday afternoon.
“This is what I told them: ‘I’m going to remember you guys for not giving up in the fourth quarter,’ ” Allen said. “But hat’s off to Manhattan. They made a few more plays than we did.”
About a minute and a half remained when senior Lindsey Bartels took the ball to the hoop, sending the Olathe South bench and the girls on the court into a tizzy. Her layup had drawn the Falcons within one point of a tie — and she had one free-throw to make thanks to a foul on Manhattan.
But the shot bounced off the rim and into the hands of Chris Carr. Manhattan had control of the ball with 1:21 to go in the game. Olathe South applied pressure to keep Manhattan at bay long enough to regain possession in the final 45 seconds.
But the Falcons, after missing another clean shot, were in such a hurry to keep Manhattan in a full-court press that they fouled Gabrielle McAtee. Manhattan took a 46-44 lead, and then added to it with another successful free throw.
Senior Makayla Gooch, who with Bartels led Olathe South’s rebounding efforts, grabbed her fifth board of the game and drove to midcourt when Allen called a final timeout with 1.5 seconds to go. The Falcons’ final play put the ball in senior Kaiti Butaud’s hands. Butaud, who led the team with 12 points, was the first to score in the game to put Olathe South ahead with a three-pointer.
But with no time to execute the play cleanly, the Olathe South Falcons fell to Manhattan (23-1), a team whose only loss on the season was to Olathe South in the McPherson Tournament in January.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” Allen said. “I’m proud of them. Our five seniors gave a lot of practices and games to this program. I’m hoping the (younger) kids who were in this room understand that dedication.”
Olathe South (19-5) will play for third place on Saturday afternoon in Wichita.