By RANDY GONZALES
Special to The Telegram
HAYS — Down four points entering the fourth quarter, the Hutchinson-Central Christian girls' basketball team did what it has done all season long — found a way to win.
Friday's 51-50 win over Ingalls in the semifinals of the Class 1A, Division II State Championships propelled Central Christian into today's 4 p.m. title game in Gross Memorial Coliseum against Sharon Springs-Wallace County. Wallace County outlasted Wetmore 46-45 in overtime in Friday's other semifinal.
"We're thankful for the win," Central Christian coach Erin Patrick said. "We don't like giving up 50 points, but we like scoring 51."
At the beginning of the game, a betting man might have thought Central Christian would have been closer to 50 turnovers than points.
Ingalls' halfcourt trap caused all kinds of problems for Central Christian; the Cougars had 13 of their 16 turnovers in the first half.
"To their credit, it hurt us," Patrick said.
Ingalls coach Roger Thurlow hoped the trap would get the ball out of the hands of Central Christian's star player, 5-foot-11 senior point guard Jamie Patrick, the coach's daughter.
"I really just wanted to frustrate Patrick as much as I could, make her work as much as she could," Thurlow said. "I knew they didn't have any depth, really."
After not scoring a point in the first quarter, Patrick had 13 points, six rebounds and three assists in the first half for Central Christian, while junior point guard Tara Whipple scored 14 of her team-high 19 points for Ingalls at the break.
Ingalls took an 11-9 lead after the first quarter. But Patrick warmed up in the second quarter, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and getting all 13 of her first-half points.
Despite shooting 64 percent in the first half, Central Christian trailed 28-26 at halftime.
Coach Patrick made an adjustment to Ingalls' trap, setting first one pick, then another, to free Jamie Patrick. The adjustment worked, as she found driving lanes to score or dish off.
But Central Christian (22-3) still trailed 41-37 after three quarters — then the Cougars rallied, going on an 11-0 run to start the fourth.
Trailing 48-41, it was Ingalls' turn to rally. The Bulldogs went on a 9-0 run to take a 50-48 lead on a follow shot by sophomore Rebecca Wyatt with 26 seconds left in the game.
Central Christian senior forward Ciara Alderson then gave the Cougars the lead, converting a conventional three-point play with 16 seconds left to go up 51-50.
No. 1 seed Ingalls (22-3) then had the ball knocked out of bounds on a drive to the basket with four seconds remaining. With no timeouts left, the Bulldogs got the ball inbounds to senior guard Janae Droste on the right wing. Droste's runner missed just before the buzzer.
'"We kept our composure at the end," coach Patrick said. "We've played in adversity all year — big teams, big crowds."
Jamie Patrick led Central Christian with 23 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots. Alderson added 16 points and eight rebounds, and senior Micaela Ensz scored nine.
After Whipple's 19, Ingalls got 11 points and 11 rebounds from senior Taylor Bleumer.
But Ingalls came up just short, just like in last year's state semifinals — also against Central Christian.
"It's the most painful loss, locker room I've ever been in," Thurlow said.
Central Christian 9 17 11 14 -- 51
Ingalls 11 17 13 9 -- 50
Central Christian (22-3) — Hagen 1-3 0-0 3, Patrick 8-17 5-8 23, Ensz 4-1 1-2 9, Alderson 6-12 4-5 16, Green 0-0 0-0 0, Casey 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 19-43 10-16 51.
Ingalls (22-3) — Droste 2-1 4-4 8, Whipple 6-12 7-9 19, R. Wyatt 3-9 0-1 6, Bleumer 4-12 3-5 11, C. Wyatt 1-1 0-0 2, Estrada 2-6 0-0 4, Galaviz 0-4 0-2 0. Totals 18-55 14-19 50.
3-point goals — Central Christian 3-9 (Hagen 1-3, Patrick 2-6), Ingalls 0-3 (Estrada 0-1, Galaviz 0-4). Fouled out — none. Rebounds — Central Christian 31 (Patrick 16), Ingalls 37 (Bleumer 11). Assists — Central Christian 10 (Patrick 7), Ingalls 5 (Whipple, C. Wyatt 2). Turnovers — Central Christian 16, Ingalls 10. Total fouls — Central Christian 16, Ingalls 17.