By BRETT MARSHALL
HAYS — When the game was on the line for South Gray it didn't seem to matter who was called on to come up with a big play Friday in the girls Class 1A state championship game at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Which may be reason enough the Lady Rebels were taking the state championship trophy home for the second time in three years after a 57-51 overtime thriller over Argonia.
In a battle of unbeatens it took heroics to earn this title.
"I think it's all heart," said junior guard Mikayla Skidmore who had a game-high 18 points. "We've just always been able to come up with the plays when we've needed them. This was awesome for everyone."
But it was sophomore forward Hannah Thomas who got the Rebels to overtime when she made two clutch free throws with 3.5 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 48-48.
Thomas also nailed a critical 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter to pull the Rebels into a 44-44 tie.
"I knew they were going in," Hannah Thomas said of the free throws at the end of regulation. "I haven't been shooting the ball very well in the tournament so it felt great to knock that one (3-pointer) down. This team just finds a way to win. We're well-rounded and this was our year."
The state title was the second in three years, the first coming in 2008 under former coach Tasha Trundle, who also guided the Lady Rebels to a runner-up finish a year ago. She resigned last spring and Andy Gillen was hired.
"It feels so good," Gillen said. "I'm so proud of these girls. They overcame everything that took place. Getting a new coach, the target was on their back all season."
Gillen got a big hug from his dad, Lee, afterward and reflected on this amazing ride in his first year at South Gray.
"These girls just don't know how to lose," Gillen said. "This win is all about the girls. Tasha did a great job with them before me and everyone else in the community has played a role. They've accomplished a lot and I've been happy to be part of this ride. But this one — these girls earned."
Gillen also said winning against Argonia was special because it capped off a three-year run in which the Rebels are 83-2, losing only to Class 3A Cimarron two years ago and in last year's state title game against St. John.
"(The girls) just find ways to get the job done," Gillen said. "They have earned everything they have gotten."
After a first quarter the teams were tied at 18. Argonia (27-1) took a 30-28 edge at halftime. South Gray led by two in the third period at one point, but Argonia came right back to finish off the quarter with five points and a 42-38 lead.
"We knew we were right in it," Gillen said. "When we needed big plays, somebody always stepped up."
When Argonia's Morgan Tracy scored on a follow shot at the outset of the fourth quarter, the Rebels trailed 44-38. Then came long range 3-pointers from Hannah Thomas and senior Brigit Hesser.
Hesser, who struggled for much of the tournament hit the 3-pointer that tied the game at 44.
"It's exciting to win again, I didn't want to feel like I did last year," Hesser said. "They are a really good team and are strong and quick. They rebound well and it's a shame somebody has to lose a game like this. But I'm happy we won. It's been a great experience and I couldn't ask for the finish to be any other way."
After Skidmore's 18 points, Hesser scored 12 and Kayla Thomas followed with 10. Hannah Thomas added nine and Baylei Zehr, another senior, knocked in two key 3-pointers in the game's early going to give the Rebels a lift.
Ashton Stansbury and Allison Brewster led the Raiders with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Hesser had four steals and Kayla Thomas six assists and seven rebounds.
At the free throw line South Gray cashed in 14-of-15 attempts, including all nine in the fourth quarter and overtime.
South Gray 57, Argonia 51 (OT)
ARGONIA (27-1) — Simon 0-0 0-0 0, Brewster 3-9 7-9 13, D. Peetoom 1-5 5-8 7, Stansbury 6-10 2-4 14, Boatright 3-5 1-2 9, Tracy 3-5 2-2 8, J. Peetoom 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 16-37 17-25 51.
SOUTH GRAY (28-0) — Hesser 4-9 2-2 12, Skidmore 7-15 2-2 18, K. Thomas 3-9 4-5 10, Zehr 2-5 2-2 8, H. Thomas 2-4 4-4 9, Kisner 0-0 0-0 0, Hibbert 0-0 0-0 0, Watkins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-42 14-15 57.
Argonia 18 12 12 6 3 -- 51
South Gray 18 10 10 10 9 -- 57
3-point goals — Argonia 2-6 (Brewster 0-2, Stansbury 0-1, Boatright 2-3), South Gray 7-20 (Hesser 2-6, Skidmore 2-7, Zehr 2-5, H. Thomas 1-2). Rebounds — Argonia 25 (Brewster 6), So. Gray 22 (K. Thomas 7). Turnovers — Argonia 21, So. Gray 19. Assists — Argonia 8 (D. Peetoom 2, Stansbury 2, Boatright 2), So. Gray 8 (K. Thomas 6). Blocked shots — Argonia 1 (D. Peetom 1), So. Gray 3 (K. Thomas 2). Steals — Argonia 8 (Brewster 3, D. Peetom 3), So. Gray 10 (Hesser 4). Fouls — Argonia 19, So. Gray 20. Fouled out — Argonia (Stansbury).