Ingalls girls claim SPIAA tourney title
BY KEVIN THOMPSON
DODGE CITY — No matter what happens this season, Ingalls' girls basketball team seems to be leading a charmed life.
The Lady Bulldogs ran their record to 13-0 with a 49-40 win over Bucklin on Saturday in the title game of the SPIAA League Tournament at the United Wireless Arena.
It avenges an overtime loss to Spearville in last year's final, but what made this game interesting was how they had to withstand a late challenge from an inspired Lady Aces squad that had looked dormant for most of the first three periods.
Ingalls had a what seemed like a solid lead of 32-16 before quarter-ending free throws from Janae Price cut that lead to 14.
Then the Aces cut that even more, going on a 13-4 run over the next five minutes to pull within five at 36-31.
That's when the Bulldogs got as tenacious as their mascot at the free throw line, converting 13-of-16 of the freebies to finally put the game out of reach.
The fourth quarter was a stark contrast to the first three periods, when Ingalls looked like the team that had made two straight trips to the Class 1A-Division II state tournament and had won its first dozen games this season.
Their trademark zone defense and half-court trap held Bucklin to just six field goals in the first 24 minutes.
Their patient style of offense also accounted for 27 of their first 30 points.
But that's the rub, as their last field goal of the game came on Deisy Estrada's third trey with 3:29 remaining in the third quarter. From then on, Ingalls shot just four times as the Aces' defense resorted to the hack-a-girl strategy to send them to the line.
Ingalls' shooters came up big, though, canning 17-of-23 free throws in the final quarter to give Roger Thurlow's Bulldogs the title.
Tara Whipple led Ingalls with 16 points, half of those at the line, while Rebecca Wyatt added 12, eight of those from the charity stripe in the final quarter before fouling out.
Two factors contributed to the Bucklin comeback, Thurlow said. Ballhandlers Whipple and Kaisha Batman never sat and Wyatt spent time on the bench in foul trouble.
"And give Bucklin a lot of credit," he added. "They're a good team that just didn't have it tonight, but started getting confidence and their feet under them in the fourth quarter."
Bucklin's foul strategy prevented his girls from running offense in the fourth, Thurlow said, but it let the Bulldogs get into a rhythm at the line, especially Wyatt, who made 7-of-11 after only 1-of-5 earlier in the game.
Bucklin only made two field goals in each of the first three quarters, and just 11 for the game.
"That's our style of basketball," Whipple said. "Defense keeps us in every game. This defense is probably as good as any defense at Ingalls for quite a while."
The defense included some half-court traps that caught the Aces guards in a double-team situation often, forced 16 turnovers, and generally kept them off their game.
When Bucklin cut into the lead late, scoring 22 points in the final period, Whipple said some of her younger teammates felt a little panic, but the veteran leadership was able to get them settled.
It's a good lesson to take from the win, she said, as they make a run for their third straight trip to state.
Facing and overcoming challenges like this are good for the Bulldogs as they get near sub-state time, Thurlow said, and they'll get another test when they face Bucklin again Tuesday.
"Our girls are working hard, and I like the direction we're headed," he said.
Bucklin 5 5 8 22 -- 40
Ingalls 10 12 10 17 -- 49
Bucklin (9-2) — GStout 1 0-0 2, Price 1 3-6 6, Cossell 2 5-6, Hood 4 4-4 14, Rudd 3 2-2 9. Totals 11 14-18 40.
Ingalls (12-0) — Estrada 3 0-0 9, Beach 1 2-2 4, Batman 1 2-2 4, Whipple 4 8-10 16, Wyatt 2 8-16 12, Galaviz 1 2-2 4. Totals 12 23-32 49.
3-pt. goals — Bucklin 4-12 (Price 1, Hood 2, Rudd 1), Ingalls 3-5 (Estrada 3). Rebounds — Bucklin 22 (Hood 5, TStout 5), Ingalls 22 (Wyatt 10, Batman 6). Turnovers — Bucklin 16, Ingalls 11. Fouled out — Ingalls (Wyatt). Total fouls — Bucklin 23, Ingalls 16.