For the second straight year — and only the second time in school history — the Scott City girls are going to the big dance.
The Beavers defeated Norton, 41-34, Saturday evening to claim the top spot in the Colby sub-state Saturday to punch their ticket to the state Class 3A event in Hutchinson.
Last season, it was a berth in Class 4A-II, where they won their first-ever state tournament game and finished fourth in Emporia.
This year, in a different venue, the Beavers (19-4) go in as the fifth seed, scheduled to face fourth-seeded Haven (19-3) 1t 8:15 p.m. Thursday at the Sports Arena.
Scott City won six games in Colby this season, three in the Orange and Black mid-season tournament, once in a regular-season game, and twice in the sub-state tournament, with none sweeter than Saturday’s final.
The Beavers led the entire game, but it wasn’t until a 7-3 run at the end the third period did they start feeling comfortable.
Leading 31-26 going into the final period, Scott City used an 8-2 run to get its largest lead of the night, 39-28 at the 3:44 mark, capped by Bailey Latta’s two free throws.
They didn’t score again until, with 17 seconds to play, Macie Price sank a pair of free throws, but the defense allowed just three points to the Bluejays in that stretch, who finished with a harmless 3-point play to end the game.
It was a tough, hard-fought game filled with hot-and-cold spells against a tough opponent, said coach Sarah McCormick, now in her third year at Scott City.
“We’re not used to being the smaller team, and player-for-player, they were bigger than we were,” she said. “That caused a few problems, but after a while, we started pounding it inside. I really thought our experience helped us keep our composure, play smart basketball, and didn’t get rattled.”
Scott City started strong, taking a 7-0 lead in the opening 61 seconds, but Norton pulled back to within two at 13-11 with just under three minutes to play in the first quarter, with the Beavers taking a 15-11 lead into the second.
All that scoring ground to a halt in the second, but fortunately for the Beavers, it was a wash. Four points for both teams still had Scott City leading 19-15 at the break.
“I thought we were being complacent and settling for shots on the outside,” McCormick said. “That’s not what we always do. We have to make them move defensively, so we tried to pound it inside and get some penetration because that really opens things up to the outside.”
Her team took the advice. After Norton scored first in the third to pull within two, Kaitlyn Roberts buried a three to put her team up 22-17.
The Jays pulled to within 24-23 with 2:31 to go, but Scott City countered with their 7-3 run to close out the quarter, leading to the Beavers making their final stand in the fourth period, once again led by the defense, which has been one of Scott City’s strong suits this season.
Price had 13 points to lead the Beavers, and Emily Weathers added 10. Norton got 17 points from Tessa Hauser.
Scott City out-rebounded the Jays 22-21.
Scott City, which finished 14-11 last season in its improbable run to state, are now 19-4, the first time since 1995 they hit 19 wins.
Up next is the Hutchinson Sports Arena, where the Scott City boys played often, winning four titles from 2011-2013 and in 2015.