Ingalls girls topple Ashland, earn No. 1 seed at 1A-II state tourney
By KEVIN THOMPSON
INGALLS — A win is a win, no matter how you get it.
That's how the Ingalls girls had to feel Saturday after a 46-34 win over Ashland to earn its third straight trip the state Class 1-Division II tournament.
With a perfect 22-0 record, the Lady Bulldogs earned the No. 1 seed and will play at 3 p.m. Wednesday against South Coffey County (10-13) at Gross Memorial Coliseum in Hays.
The return trip is getting to be the norm. How they did it was the unusual.
After a solid performance in the first half, the Lady Bulldogs went nearly 16 minutes without a field goal in the second half but still found the way to win.
The Bulldogs played inspired basketball in the first half, drawing energy from its raucous Dog Pound spirit group.
Using its signature half-court trap and in-your-face defense, Ingalls broke a 9-all tie at 4:00 to end the quarter with a 15-9 lead, thanks in part to eight Ashland turnovers.
Ingalls extended its lead to 31-18 at the break, committing just two turnovers and scoring 21 of its first-half points following Jays turnovers.
The second half looked different for the state's top-ranked and only undefeated team.
Ingalls went 0-for-10 from the floor in the third quarter but 7-for-10 from the free throw line.
Ashland could only match them point-for-point, however, instead of taking advantage of the Bulldogs' field goal woes.
In the fourth quarter, the Jays tried to mount a comeback, pressuring the ball more and forcing eight turnovers.
But unlike the Bulldogs in the first half, Ashland could not cash in, settling for just nine points, with its last bucket coming at the 4:15 mark to cut the lead to nine at 40-31. After that they shot 0-for-8 the rest of the game.
In that stretch, Ingalls found a home at the free throw line, shooting 18 but making only six.
When Rebecca Wyatt made the only Ingalls field goal of the second half with just three seconds remaining, all that didn't matter.
Coach Roger Thurlow has come to expect the unconventional in his team's recent run to state tournaments.
"Our pressure was great. Our rebounding was solid. We got a lot of girls who really fought hard," Thurlow said. "It was a really physical game, both sides."
Senior Tara Whipple, an all-stater last year, had four free throws, but she was the floor general that kept the young Bulldogs squad together, he said, especially in the first half.
"She was running the offense, calling the plays, mixing it up. She got everybody good looks," he said.
Freshmen Kaisha Batman and Hope Beach combined for 23 points, with freshman Bulma Galaviz adding three and protecting the inside, despite banging up her knee on Thursday.
"I wasn't expecting to go to state this year will all the freshmen coming in, but it's been a great ride with how hard they've worked and how big of role they stepped into," Whipple said.
"This team has really worked hard this year, especially on defense, or we wouldn't be here."
This was the third win for the Bulldogs over Ashland this season. The last time, the Jays doubled their 3-point output, and Thurlow said Ingalls had schemed to stop that this time around.
After the opening quarter in which they hit three, Ashland hit just one more trey, and that made the difference.
Elizabeth McKinney, who hit five threes and 27 points in the semifinals, was held to just a 3-pointer in this game.
Kara Luerman led the Jays with 10 points.
Turnovers also made a big difference. Ashland committed 26 for the game, while the Bulldogs had just four until the final period, but their eight miscues led to only two points.
When the field goals stopped falling, the defense kept going, Thurlow said, and that made the difference.
"That's just effort. We're not the biggest team, but we're fast and we have a lot of heart, from the seniors down to the freshmen," he said.
A win on Wednesday would put the Lady Bulldogs into Friday's 3 p.m. semifinal against the winner of the Wilson (20-2) vs. Baileyville B&B (20-3) game.
Ashland 9 9 7 7 -- 34
Ingalls 15 16 7 8 -- 46
Ashland (16-7) — McKinney 1 0-0 3, Reimer 0 0-2 0, Luerman 3 2-2 10, Johnson 2 1-2 5, Borgelt 3 0-0 7, Endicott 4 1-3 9. Totals 12-35 4-7 34.
Ingalls (22-0) — Estrada 1 0-2 3, Beach 2 5-9 10, Batman 4 4-9 13, Whipple 0 4-6 4, Wyatt 6 1-8 13, Galaviz 1 1-2 3. Totals 14-44 15-36 46.
3-pt. goals — Ashland 4-15 (McKinney Luerman 2, Borgelt), Ingalls 3-14 (Estrada, Beach, Batman). Rebounds — Ashland 25 (Endicott 10), Ingalls 24 (Wyatt 11). Turnovers — Ashland 26, Ingalls 12. Technical fouls — none. Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Ashland 22, Ingalls 14.