Chinstraps and Mouthpieces
Girls run will carry into 2005
Salina will have to wait another year.
Despite a late-season push that saw the Tonganoxie girls team win its final eight regular-season games, the state trip never materialized.
A 16-4 regular-season mark usually can notch a team a top substate seed, but not in the Lansing tournament.
No. 1 De Soto entered the tournament at 17-3, while Eudora and Bishop Ward both were 14-6.
Tabbed by some as the toughest Class 4A substate, the argument has supporting evidence.
At the Labette County substate, the host school was 16-3, Columbus was 15-4 and Parsons was 14-5.
At Anthony-Harper-Chapparal, AHC was the top seed at 20-0, Wichita Collegiate was 18-2, Kingman was at 14-5 and Buhler 13-6.
Labette County won its substate, but top seeds De Soto and AHC did not.
Bishop Ward plays top-seeded Colby at 6:30 p.m. today, but Chieftain players likely can picture "Tonganoxie" in that bracket.
With a 12-point lead against Eudora in the semifinals, the planets seemed to be aligned for a final shot at the state tournament. Eudora made a furious rally and it was the Cardinals who got that state-berth shot.
But on Saturday, the pain Tonganoxie players felt two nights before struck Eudora hard. Sure, THS had a 12-point lead, but EHS held a 50-47 lead with eight seconds left in the game.
Bishop Ward, though, tied the game and then a Eudora miscue gave the Cyclones the ball back.
The five points in eight seconds transformed jubilation into frustration and disbelief.
That was the scene for Tonganoxie, but the respectable record likely is just the beginning for the Chieftains.
For a team that hadn't experienced a winning season since 2000, the 17-5 record was quite glossy.
That didn't take the sting away Thursday, but Tonganoxie has made substantial strides in the last two years under Randy Kraft.
The roughest thing about losing this year included parting with not just the season, but also a talented senior class.
They weren't always the top scorers, but they cornered the market on intangibles. Michelle McWilliams, Katie Jeannin, Sarah Holliday and Kelly Breuer were leaders and that will be hard to replace.
On the flip side, open the cupboard next year and you'll find it stacked full of talent.
Addie Heim will be a senior next winter; Ali Pistora will be just a sophomore. The duo will cause problems for opponents' again next year. From the perimeter, Maddie Weller should be a weapon, along with Laura Jeannin.
And junior varsity players such as Rebecca and Rachel Bogard, Heather Deaver, Kelley Stauch and Amanda Lenon should step into contributing roles next season.
The talent will be there next fall when the campaign begins in December. The true test comes with filling the void of that senior leadership.
If so, the Chieftains will have a legitimate shot at another trip to Salina in mid-March.
And if that's the scenario, Tonganoxie will end the year in the Bicentennial Center rather than the Lansing High School gymnasium.