Chieftains roll to substate title game
What a charm No. 3 was for the Tonganoxie High girls basketball team.
After playing two nail-biters against Basehor-Linwood in January -- both in the same week because of a scheduling change -- Tonganoxie and Basehor-Linwood hooked up for a third time in Friday in the THS gymnasium.
The Chieftains won both those games, but were faced with defeating their archrival a third time.
This time, the stakes were much higher.
This time, the winner advanced and the loser ended its season for good.
This time, Tonganoxie made sure there was no doubt as to who would come away victorious.
THS held a slim 10-7 lead after the first quarter, momentum swung in Tonganoxie's favor in the second quarter, thanks to back-to-back three's by Ali Pistora and Elizabeth Baska that opened the period. Those buckets helped THS to a nine-point lead and the Chieftains never looked back.
Tonganoxie led 24-11 at halftime and then 46-18 entering the fourth quarter.
When the game ended, the scoreboard read 57-34 in Tonganoxie's favor.
Shots were falling from almost anywhere on the court, including six shots from beyond the three-point line.
The win pushed Tonganoxie to 21-1 and set up a substate championship clash with Eudora. The Cardinals defeated Baldwin in the other semifinal game.
"We came out and ran like we wanted to," Christy Weller said, noting that the Chieftains also used a different press on defense to disrupt the Bobcats, who ended their season at 12-10.
It was an ideal postseason tournament feel inside the Tonganxoie gymnasium. THS and Basehor-Linwood students sections were side-by-side at court level. With the THS band rocking from the southeast corner of the balcony seating and a large crowd overall, the game had a special feel.
Just ask Weller.
"Tonight felt like the championship game," Weller said. "But Eudora's pretty scrappy."
No. 6 Eudora improved to 12-10 with a semifinal win against No. 2 Baldwin, which finished the season at 16-6.
For senior Ali Pistora, it's a third straight trip to the substate finals. The Chieftains defeated Sumner in 2005 and advanced to state that year, but fell to the Sabres last spring in the substate finals.
"It's like home," Pistora said. "We always find our way back."
Fellow senior Rebecca Bogard also is ready for another crack at state -- one last time.
"We're excited to be in the championship game," Bogard said. "We're ready to take it at them. We're not going to end the season without a fight."
Tonganoxie and Eudora will meet in the substate title game at 6 p.m. Saturday in the THS gymnasium.