Top card trumps Chieftain girls
Lauren Kracl this and Lauren Kracl that.
Tonganoxie players were warned all week about Eudora's most potent weapon before Thursday's Class 4A substate semifinal in Lansing.
The Chieftains nearly disarmed the senior, but Kracl helped orchestrate a fourth-quarter rally as the Cardinals defeated THS, 48-42, and dashed the Chieftains' hopes to move onto state.
Kracl, who averages more than 20 points per game, was a threat in the first half, yet Tonganoxie still seemed to keep her in check. The senior had nine points at the break, but also had three fouls after a driving Addie Heim forced a foul along the baseline late in the half.
And then came more good news in the third quarter. Just 41 seconds into the second half, Kracl was called for a hand-check.
The senior savior sat on the bench the rest of the quarter and for a smidge of the fourth.
During a portion of that span, the Chieftains built an encouraging 12-point lead. Everything appeared to be in order for a date Saturday with either Bishop Ward or De Soto in the substate finals.
The cushion wasn't big enough.
Eudora (16-6) went on a 5-0 run at the end of the third and trailed 37-30 entering the fourth.
Then came the Cardinals' charge.
A 9-1 run put Eudora ahead for the first time since the first half. Katie Jeannin then scored a bucket and put the Chieftains up, 40-39, but that would be Tonganoxie's final lead. Kracl hit three free throws down the stretch -- part of nine points in the final quarter -- and the Cardinals sealed the victory.
"We had our opportunities," THS coach Randy Kraft said. "We just didn't execute. We turned the ball over a few times and let them back into it."
During the early going, the Cardinals showed signs of putting together a big run. Some quick Tonganoxie shots weren't falling. And although Kracl was contained for the most part in the first half, other players made open drives to the hoop. The Cards held a 21-14 lead midway through the second quarter.
That's when the Chieftains settled down and went on a run. THS put together an effective 12-0 run at the end of the first half complete with a handful of blocks, steals and fast breaks.
In need of another rally late, the Chieftains just couldn't muster the points. THS slowed its pace and attempted to spread its half-court offense, but Eudora continued to creep back and eventually claimed the win.
Senior Michelle McWilliams, whose defense ignited the Chieftains during the 12-0 run, finished the game with five points. She and three other seniors filed out of the Lansing locker room teary-eyed after they finished their final games as Chieftains.
"We had a 10-point lead," McWilliams said. "It's rough."
Eudora's Kayla Moyer complemented Kracl by cashing in 16 in the winning Tonganoxie, though, had its own double threat in Heim and Ali Pistora.
Heim scored 11, while Pistora, who was matched with Kracl, led the Chieftains with 14.
Every time Pistora scored, the THS student section chanted "Freshman."
The rookie held her own, according to her opponent.
"She's a good player, Kracl said. "She's played a lot of basketball, and you can tell by the way she plays she's going to be very good in the future."
Tonganoxie finished the season at 17-5. Sarah Holliday, Kelly Breuer, Amanda Chenoweth and Jeannin joined McWilliams as graduating seniors.
When this year's seniors were freshmen, the Chieftains finished 10-13, one game shy of the state tournament in Salina.
THS then went 7-14 and 10-11 last year in Kraft's first year in Tonganoxie.
With two of its top two scorers back next year in Heim and Pistora and Maddie Weller also returning, THS could again improve on this year's 17-5 mark.
"It helps us out," Pistora said about this year's run. "We know what we can do and that we can do better.
"But it's tough because of the seniors."
Eudora 48, Tonganoxie 42
Eudora 11 10 9 18 -- 48
Tonganoxie 9 17 11 5 -- 42
Eudora (16-6) -- Lauren Kracl 18, Erin Kracl 4, Rachel Abel 1, Kayla Moyer 16, Jodi Wingebach 2, Michelle Deluna 5, Carrie Lister 2.
Tonganoxie (17-5) -- Heim 11, Pistora 14, Weller 4, Jeannin 2, Breuer 1, Holliday 5, McWilliams 5.effort.