By BRETT MARSHALL
HAYS — There's been no secret to the success of the Greeley County girls basketball team in its run to the Class 1A state tournament.
The Lady Jackrabbits like to utilize their speed, quickness and athleticism to pressure the opposition, force turnovers and get out and run.
It's the principal reason Greeley County is in Hays for the first time in seven years.
In the first round on Wednesday though, it proved to be the lack of its ability to run along with a lack of height, that was cause for the Jackrabbits to fall 50-35, to unbeaten St. Paul.
"Height is a great equalizer and we just didn't have anything to match up with them," Greeley County first-year coach Tom Farmer said. "We talked about it ahead of the game, but when you're posting up a 5-foot-5 player against a 6-foot-2 post, it makes it pretty difficult. We tried back side help, everything, but they are one heck of a team."
After falling behind in the first half 26-14 with 4:11 remaining before the half, the Jackrabbits seemed to find their comfort level and made a big run at the Indians. By the time halftime arrived, Greeley County had scored 11 unanswered points before St. Paul's junior standout guard — Morgan Westhoff — hit a free throw to put the Indians up 27-25 at the break.
"We got our rhythm going and were able to get some turnovers during that time," Farmer said of the second quarter rally. "We were able to stop them, but they played great defense and were able to stop us, too."
One thing that aided Greeley County's comeback was that the Indians' 6-2 senior center, Allison O'Brien, was on the bench with two fouls.
"I liked where we were when we came in at halftime, but I knew they'd have the big girl back in there to start the third," Farmer said. "You know what you need to do to stop the other team, but somehow you just don't have everything you need. I liked the fight in the girls, they never quit. We just couldn't get any good looks and you have to credit St. Paul's defense. They are very long, very good. As good as we've seen this year."
St. Paul came back out in the pivotal third quarter, slowed the pace and immediately worked its offense to get O'Brien open looks down low. It worked for the Indians as O'Brien scored eight of the 10 points in that stretch while the Indians limited Greeley County to just a 3-point basket by Kelli Crittenden at the 5:20 mark.
Crittenden's trey was the Jackrabbits only score in the quarter.
"They're very sound defensively and made it extremely tough for us to get any good looks at the basket," Farmer said. "Somebody asked me how good they were. Well, they're 25-0. Isn't that enough to know?"
In the final eight minutes Greeley County twice they cut the deficit to seven after trailing by nine at the end of the third quarter. The final seven-point Indians' lead came with 4:49 to play on Crittenden's third 3-pointer of the game. From there, with the St. Paul offense working time off the clock, the Indians outscored Greeley County 10-2 in the final 3:47. Eight of their 13 points down the stretch came at the free throw line.
Westhoff topped all scorers with 20 points and also had a game-high nine rebounds. O'Brien finished with 13 points, 11 of which came in the final half.
At one point of the third quarter, with St. Paul leading 33-28, Westhoff hit the floor hard and had to leave the game to treat a split brow over her left eye. Unfortunately for the Jackrabbits, they couldn't find a way to score and take advantage of Westhoff's brief absence.
Kelli Crittenden led Greeley County (20-6) with 10 points. She was the lone double-figure scorer for the Jackrabbits. Greeley County finished just 12-of-41 (29.3 percent) from the floor, while St. Paul shot 54.1 percent.
With its victory, St. Paul moves into today's semifinal round against Argonia (26-0) at 6:30 p.m. In the other semifinal, South Graymeets defending champion St. John (25-1) at 3 p.m.
St. Paul 50, Greeley County 35
GREELEY COUNTY (20-6) — Greeson 0-6 0-0 0, Kelli Crittenden 3-8 1-2 10, Bender 2-7 0-0 4, Myers 2-4 1-2 5, Moser 3-5 2-2 8, Schneider 0-4 0-0 0, Kelcy Crittenden 0-4 2-2 2, Berggren 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 12-41 8-10 35.
ST. PAUL (26-0) — Jessica Tuck 1-6 3-4 6, Erin Tuck 1-2 0-0 2, Borum 3-5 2-2 8, Westhoff 9-15 2-4 20, O'Brien 6-8 1-2 13, Paulie 0-1 1-2 1, Phillips 0-0 0-0 50. Totals 20-37 9-14 50.
Greeley County 12 13 3 7 -- 35
St. Paul 17 10 10 13 -- 50
3-point goals — Greeley County 3-12 (Greeson 0-4, Kelli Crittenden 3-6, Bender 0-1, Moser 0-1), St. Paul 1-7 (Jessica Tuck 1-5, Borum 0-1, Westhoff 0-1). Rebounds — Greeley County 20 (Moser 5), St. Paul 30 (Westhoff 9). Assists — Greeley County 8 (Kelli Crittenden 2, Bender 2), St. Paul 15 (Borum 7). Turnovers — Greeley County 13, St. Paul 13. Blocked shots — Greeley County 2 (Kelcy Crittenden 2), St. Paul 6 (O'Brien 2). Steals — Greeley County 9 (Myers 3, Moser 3), St. Paul 8 (Borum 3). Fouls — Greeley County 16, St. Paul 11. Fouled out — None.