The Great Bend High School Lady Panthers are one win away from advancing to the Class 5A state basketball tournament in Topeka.
It was anything but easy.
After falling behind Maize South 21-13 at the break on Wednesday night at Panther Fieldhouse, GBHS made the right adjustments at halftime, unleashed an 18-7 run in the third quarter and went on to post a 48-40 victory.
Great Bend (14-6) advances to a sub-state championship game at Salina South on Friday night. Second-seeded South (15-5) beat Hays 42-31 on Wednesday night, and the winner of Friday night’s matchup advances to the state tourney.
“The greatest thing is that we have put ourselves in this position,” said Great Bend first-year head coach Carrie Minton, who has orchestrated an impressive turnaround after last season’s 3-18 debacle. “We are one win away now of achieving one of the goals that girls have had.
“It’s a goal that every girl that steps on the floor has, to make it to that point. We’re going to have to go out and compete the best that we possibly can and hope things turn out for the best.”
Playing in front of the hometown crowd for the final time of the season, the Lady Panthers trailed 14-4 after a sluggish first quarter.
“We knew from the get-go that Maize South was going to be a tough competitor,” Minton said. “It was unfortunate that they had that delay, but they play in a league where their record is very deceiving in the fact that they have a lot of good opponents, week-in and week-out.”
Maize South’s arrival to Great Bend was delayed after their team bus broke down near Pratt, delaying the scheduled 7 o’clock start to 7:30.
But the Lady Mavericks had control much of the first half in building their eight-point lead. Six-foot junior post player Mariah Suchan scored 10 of her team-high 13 points during that stretch.
Great Bend took away Maize South’s halftime lead and took over the game in the third quarter. The Lady Panthers scored the first nine points of the period for a 22-21 lead at the 5:34 mark — including a free throw from Morgan Harwood, a 3-pointer from Kaylie Doll, a basket by Regan Unruh and a three-point play by Tarynn Stueder.
After the Lady Mavs went back up 25-22, GBHS scored six straight points for a 28-25 edge before Taylor Mannis’ 3-pointer knotted the score at 28.
But Stueder made 1 of 2 free throws for a 29-28 lead entering the final quarter.
The Lady Panthers’ Lauren Welsch then scored off dribble penetration. Then she fed Harwood for a layup on their next trip for a 33-28 lead with 7:42 remaining.
Maize South would later take the lead, 36-35, after a Grace Aitken’s 3 with 5:45 to go, and the Lady Mavs tied the score at 40 after answering Kelsie Doll’s 3 with one of their own.
But Harwood, who scored a game-high 16 points, gave GBHS the lead for good at 42-40 after sinking two foul shots with 2:07 left. The Lady Panthers also got a pair of critical offensive rebounds after both Kelsie Doll and Stueder made the first of two free throws down the stretch to salt away the win.
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Class 5A Sub-State
At Great Bend
No. 3 seed Great Bend 48,
No. 6 Maize South 40
MAIZE SOUTH (11-10)
Grace Aitken 3 0-0 9, Karli Kubik 0 0-0 0, McKenna Poynter 4 0-1 8, Mariah Suchan 6 1-5 13, Alexa Brockel 1 0-0 2, Taylor Mannis 3 0-0 8, Mady Nestor 0 0-1 0. Totals 17 1-7 40.
GREAT BEND (14-6)
Lauren Welsch 2 2-2 7, Hannah Hildebrand 0 0-0 0, Kelsie Doll 2 0-0 5, Kylee Spray 0 0-0 0, Regan Unruh 1 1-2 3, Kaylie Doll1 5-6 8, McKenna Mauler 1 0-3 2, Tarynn Stueder 1 5-8 7, Morgan Harwood 5 6-7 16. Totals 13 19-28 48.
Maize South 14 7 7 12 — 40
Great Bend 4 9 18 17 — 48
Three-point goals — Maize South 5 (Aitken 3, Mannis 2); Great Bend 3 (Welsch, Kel. Doll, Kay. Doll). Total fouls — Maize South 22, Great Bend 14. Fouled out — Maize South (Poynter).