Girls basketball loses in first round of state tournament

Lady Jags end season 18-5 after 55-43 loss to Salina Central

With+the+defense+approaching%2C+senior+Catie+Kaifes+looks+to+pass+to+freshman+Claire+Kaifes.
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Girls basketball loses in first round of state tournament

With the defense approaching, senior Catie Kaifes looks to pass to freshman Claire Kaifes.

With the defense approaching, senior Catie Kaifes looks to pass to freshman Claire Kaifes.

By Karissa Schmidt

With the defense approaching, senior Catie Kaifes looks to pass to freshman Claire Kaifes.

By Karissa Schmidt

By Karissa Schmidt

With the defense approaching, senior Catie Kaifes looks to pass to freshman Claire Kaifes.

Taylor Anderson and Kate Ocker

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With towels pressed to their faces to wipe away tears, members of the girls basketball team watched as the final seconds of the first round state game slowly ran out. Although the game was tight most of the way, the team eventually lost to Salina Central 55-43, ending its season with a 18-5 record.

“You’re disappointed for the team because they work so hard and they obviously want to advance,” head coach John McFall said. “At times, it certainly looked like we were on the threshold of advancing, but that’s the way basketball is.”

Pulling ahead early, the team initially led the Mustangs 12-10 at the end of the first quarter. After a close first half, the Jaguars headed into the start of the second half leading the Mustangs 23-22. Click here for photos from the first half.

The Mustangs made a comeback late in the third quarter, ending with a 36-36 tie. Team members felt confident in their ability to take the lead, but began to struggle late in the fourth quarter, something senior post Catie Kaifes attributed to their loss.

“We were looking at the scoreboard too much and worrying about the score and getting our heads down,” Kaifes said. “I thought we could pull it together and get the win, but we struggled a little bit.”

The Jaguars began to repeatedly foul in the fourth quarter in hopes of regaining possession in order to make a comeback. McFall said the strategy ultimately failed as it gave the Mustangs the chance to extend its lead towards the 55-43 win. Click here for photos from the second half.

“We didn’t struggle with anything. [Salina Central] was ahead, and they started bleeding the clock,” McFall said. “We got into a situation where we had to foul, and when we fouled, they made every free throw but one.”

The team put up a strong fight despite the tough competition, according to junior forward Ashlyn Hendrix, who scored 11 points in the game.

“We had passion and kept believing. Our team moved the ball on offense really well we played played hard,” Hendrix said. “I feel really good but it’s also bittersweet.”

Melynda Messer Kaifes, mother of Catie and her sister, freshman forward Claire, said she was grateful her daughters had the experience to play together.

“I was exciting that they had the opportunity to play together,” Melynda said. “They were great, with only one senior. [Catie] was a strong leader. All this young talent is just going to grow and grow.”

The loss marked the final game for Catie, the team’s lone senior and top scorer of the night with 20 points. Despite the difficult ending, Catie said the team’s dedication and progress throughout the season made her last year memorable.

“It was very sad, because it’s my last year, but we played hard,” Catie said. “I knew we were going to make it far, but not this far. We improved tremendously. It was probably the best season we’ve ever had.”

Emotionally drained after the game, players gathered in the locker room for one more talk from McFall. Though the loss was disappointing, McFall expressed appreciation for the team’s efforts throughout the season.

“We talked about how much they’ve improved, how in December they weren’t very good quite honestly, but they stuck with it and stuck with it and worked and improved,” McFall said. “We graduated five seniors last year, and we just had to put things together and learn how to be a team. We came together and they won 15 games in a row. They had a fantastic year.”

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