They never looked comfortable.
They didn’t hold a lead until 30 seconds into the fourth quarter.
But it’s not always how you start a game, it’s how you finish, and the Great Bend High School girls’ basketball team outscored Maize South 15-9 in the final quarter to lock down a 47-43 victory in the Class 5A Sub-State Tournament championship game on Saturday night at the Panther Fieldhouse.
“The girls worked hard for a full 32 minutes,” GBHS head coach Carrie Minton said. “I felt like we had some nerves coming out to start the game. We knew that once we got over that curve, that hump and we could finally take the lead, that we would kind of take that sigh of relief.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t take that sigh of relief until the fourth quarter. Even though I say that, the girls’ knew it wasn’t over, but you could see that smile, that fire in their eyes that they weren’t going to let go of the lead.”
Great Bend advances to the 5A state tournament, which starts on Thursday in Topeka.
With the win, the Lady Panthers improve to 20-2, which is the best record for a girls’ basketball team in school history. The 2013-14 team topped two teams at 19 wins (1979-80 and 1998-99).
“This helps cap off a great season,” Minton said. “This win puts them as the winningest team is school history, so that’s a big honor for these ladies to have as a varsity group.”
Things didn’t start well for the Lady Panthers.
Maize South got out to an early lead on a Mariah Suchan jumper and a layup from Jaelynn McLaurian.
Great Bend senior Tarynn Stueder drained a 3-pointer from the left wing, making it 5-3, but Maize South rebounded with a 6-0 run.
McLaurian sandwiched a Suchan short jumper with a pair of buckets, making it 10-5 with less than four minutes to go in the first half.
The Lady Mavericks continued their success breaking Great Bend’s full-court press throughout the first quarter, leading 18-11 after the first eight minutes.
Regan Unruh knocked down the first field goal of the second quarter, a 3-pointer to close the gap to 18-14.
After Maize South’s Alexa Brockel hit 1 of 2 free throws, Great Bend got back-to-back baskets from Morgan Harwood to close the advantage to 19-18.
That would be the closest Great Bend would get in the first half, as Maize South led 23-20 at intermission.
In the third quarter, it was Unruh again striking first for Great Bend.
When a drive to the basket ended in a foul, Unruh plopped in both free throws to make it 23-22.
The Lady Mavs started rebuilding their lead, getting it up to 28-22 before Kelsie Doll made a pair of free throws for Great Bend.
Down 32-26, Great Bend unleashed its first true run of the game.
A 6-0 run, compiled of a Kaylie Doll layup, 1 of 2 free throws from Hannah Hildebrand and a 3-pointer from McKenna Mauler, tied things up at 32-all with 2:23 remaining in the third quarter.
Again, Maize South responded, scoring four unanswered points to go into the fourth quarter ahead 36-32.
Right out of the gate, Unruh strikes again. This time a 3-pointer to make it 36-35.
Unruh finished with a team-leading 13 points.
“Tonight we had Regan as the leading scorer,” Minton said. “We had McKenna (Mauler) knocking down some 3s, and Tarynn Stueder knocked down a big 3 that finally got us started. It’s been that combination of things and it’s been that way for us all year long.
“Different people stepping up at different times to kind of take that lead.”
Lauren Welsch made both free throws on a one-and-one to give Great Bend its first lead of the game, 37-36, with 7:27 remaining.
Unruh made it 39-36 with a driving layup with 6:46 remaining.
Suchan got a putback for the Lady Mavericks to make it 39-38 with 5:26 remaining.
Great Bend, running the clock out with every possession, got 1 of 2 free throws from Stueder on the other end, making it 40-38 with 4:53 left.
Maize South failed to inbound the ball, allowing Great Bend to run more clock before Hildebrand drew a foul. She didn’t make either, but Maize South turned the ball over again.
Mauler rattled home a 3-pointer, making it 43-38 with 3:41 left.
After Maize South cut the lead to 43-40, Unruh made the back end of her pair of free throws to make it a four-point game.
Suchan got Maize South back into it, making 1 of 2 free throws and getting a putback with 1:23 remaining, leaving the score at 44-43.
With 1:08 left, Unruh draws a foul and made both of her free throws to make it a three-point game.
Stueder missed a layup for Great Bend, and Suchan drew a foul in transition. She missed both of her free throws, though.
Great Bend removed another 16 seconds off the clock before the Lady Mavs fouled Unruh, who missed both of her free throws.
Maize South’s Brockel got fouled, but didn’t take advantage, missing both free throws.
Hildebrand drew a foul going for the rebound. She made 1 of 2 to make it a four-point game.
“Even with that four-point lead, you never feel safe,” Minton said. “It’s not over until the buzzer sounds.”
Keslie Doll forced a loose ball that Unruh scooped up in transition, and Kelsie Doll got fouled with 4.9 left in the game.
Kelsie missed on both attempts, but it didn’t matter.
Maize South missed a last-second 3-pointer to leave it at 47-43.
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Class 5A Sub-State Tournament
At Great Bend
Great Bend 47, Maize South 43
MAIZE SOUTH (7-15)
Mariah Suchan 6 4-7 16, Alexa Brockel 1 2-10 4, Taylor Mannis 1 0-0 2, Elizabeth Bally 2 0-0 4, Kassidy Johnson 1 0-0 2, Jaelynn McLaurian 7 1-6 15. Totals 18 7-23 43.
GREAT BEND (20-2)
Lauren Welsch 0 2-2 2, Hannah Hildebrand 0 2-6 2, Kelsie Doll 2 2-4 6, Kylee Spray 0 0-1 0, Regan Unruh 3 5-8 13, Kaylie Doll 1 0-0 2, McKenna Mauler 3 4-4 12, Tarynn Stueder 1 1-2 4, Morgan Harwood 3 0-0 6. Totals 13 16-27 47.
Maize South 18 5 14 7 — 43
Great Bend 11 9 12 15 — 47
Three-points goal — Maize South (none); Great Bend 5 (Unruh 2, M. Mauler 2, Stueder).