Lady Wildcats edged by Jeff West, 56-52
For Holton High School head girls basketball coach Jon Holliday, Thursday’s first-round substate match between the Wildcats and Jefferson West showed why post-season play is a big draw in high school basketball.
“It was a big-time atmosphere, and it should be at this time of the year,” Holliday said. “It was fun, it was enjoyable and it showed us why we buy tickets.”
Unfortunately, for the Lady Cats, it was also the end of the line for their 2015-16 season — and a crushing end, too. Despite fighting back from a slow beginning and getting a buzzer-beating three-pointer from HHS senior Sarah Sweet to put the game into overtime, the Cats found themselves on the losing end of a 48-44 score.
“It’s not the fall that kills you — it’s that sudden stop,” Holliday said after the game. “That’s the thing about tournament time. You’re going to pour your heart and soul into it, and sometimes you don’t get rewarded.”
The “sudden stop” in this case was a technical foul called on Holton senior Mackenzie Moore with the score knotted at 44 and mere seconds left in the overtime period. Even in the hours after the game, Holliday continued to question the call.
“I’m not seeing it on film,” he said of the technical foul call that gave Moore her fifth foul on the night. “I don’t see the foul they called, and I was upset with the technical. Mac said she didn’t say anything (to earn a technical) and I’m inclined to believe her. It was a bad deal.”
It was the third time this year that the Lady Cats and the Tigers went head to head. Holton won the first match 44-33 at Meriden in January, but in February, Jefferson West squeaked a 56-52 win out of the Cats in Holton.
The Lady Cats got off to a decent start in the first quarter but watched as Jefferson West exploded for 16 second-quarter points to take a 22-14 lead going into halftime. Holliday said at that point, the team could have done a better job of guarding, running offense and particularly getting some better shots at the goal.
However, the Cats came out of the locker at halftime, knowing that “we had to go back to the little things,” Holliday said. Despite getting into foul trouble, Holton was able to rack up 18 points in the fourth quarter to draw the Cats to within three with seconds to go in the game.
And that was where Sweet’s last-second trey tied things at 38 at the end of regulation.
“We would like to have been able to stop the game right there. That would have been a great way to win it,” Holliday said. “Sarah did a great job. She stayed wide, she caught the ball, got her dribble down and got her feet underneath her. She shot a runner, but she did slow down enough to get her shoulders squared and give it a chance, and that’s all you can ask for.”
In the overtime period, the Cats were able to match the Tigers shot for shot offensively, until Moore got saddled with the technical foul. The Tigers were then given four shots at the foul line, sinking two of them and then sinking another last-second goal to erase the Cats’ hopes of a substate final against perennial rival Topeka Hayden.
“We would have liked to have had another shot against Hayden,” said Holliday, recalling his team’s two losses to the Topeka team earlier in the season. “It’s a very helpless feeling from my standpoint, because there’s not much you can say to the girls that makes it any better.”
Junior Courtney Boswell led the Lady Cats in scoring with 17 points, including four from behind the three-point arc. Other notable three-point shots came from Sweet and from sophomore Shay Tanking, who had two to contribute to a 10-point total on the night.
The loss left Holton’s final 2015-16 record at a respectable 11-5 in Big Seven League play and at 12-9 overall — a record that Holliday hopes his team would look upon positively at some point in the future.
“We played some great competition, and we lost to some quality opponents,” he said. “But we also played some very good basketball. We just try to get through it, and in a day or two, the healing will start, the sting goes out of it and it’ll get better as we move on. And hopefully, there’s some great memories for them.”
Jefferson West’s record in the Big Seven League rose to 10-6 and overall to 13-8 for the year before falling to Topeka Hayden 60-31 in the substate championship game.
Holton 44, Jefferson West 48 (OT)
Jeff West 6-16-4-12-10—48
Holton: Boswell 5 (4) 3-4 17, Tanking 3 (2) 2-2 10, M. Moore 2 1-2 5, Sweet 1 (1) 1-2 4, Thompson 2 0-0 4, Lierz 2 0-0 4. Totals 15 (7) 7-10 44.
Jefferson West: Murdie 5 8-10 18, Garza 3 6-9 12, Becker 2 (1) 2-3 7, Negonsott 2 2-2 6, Metzger 1 (1) 2-2 5, Giltner 0 0-1 0. Totals 13 (2) 20-27 48.