Wingman at Top Gun
Girls take second at Wellsville tourney
The Eudora Cardinals girls basketball team has already enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in school history. They entered Wellsville's Top Gun Invitational Tournament riding a six-game win streak.
Eudora began the tourney by trouncing Anderson County 59-29, moving the streak to seven games.
The Cardinal victory set the stage for legitimizing tests with Ottawa and Baldwin.
On the strength of Lauren Kracl's triple-double Thursday, the Cards cruised past Ottawa 57-42.
And the stage was set for a Eudora vs. Baldwin championship game Saturday. The Cardinals were eager to prove they had risen to the elite class and the Bulldogs just as eager to prove they were still at the head of that class.
Baldwin postponed Eudora's graduation with a 63-52 victory.
Eudora returned to the road and the hardwood Tuesday in Silver Lake. The Eagles stunned the Cardinals 70-57.
The two-game losing streak is the first negative streak that Eudora has faced this year. And the 63 and 70 points given up during the past two contests are the highest point totals allowed by the Cardinals this season.
It was clear early at Silver Lake that Eudora had not fully recovered from the emotionally draining loss to Baldwin. The team was expressionless and out of sync from the opening tip.
The Eagles overpowered the Cardinals early, scoring nearly all of their 17 first quarter points from within close range. Silver Lake led 17-11 after one quarter of play.
Kracl cut the lead to four with a medium-range jumper at the onset of the second quarter, but Eudora couldn't sustain any type of rhythm in the game.
Halftime left the Cardinals in a hole 33-24.
Eudora came out of the locker room momentarily energized as a 12-4 run cut the Eagles' lead down to a point. But they just couldn't get over the hump, and by the end of the third Silver Lake's lead was back to seven at 45-38.
Twice in the fourth quarter Eudora cut Silver Lake's lead to six but never closer.
The Eagles proceeded to put on a free throw clinic, icing the game. Silver Lake connected on 30-of-39 free throw attempts on the night.
Meanwhile the Cards were connecting on just four-of-13 three-point attempts.
The Eagles closed out the Cardinals 70-57.
"We got our tails kicked," head coach Cara Kimberlin said. "They didn't care who (Kracl) was. They were going to throw it in there and shoot over her -- and they did.
"I was not satisfied with our effort in the first half. We looked like a bunch of slugs. We looked like a team that felt like they could just walk out there and the other team would just disintegrate around us."
Kracl was especially disappointed in her team's effort following such a hard-fought loss to Baldwin.
"It hurts a lot because we played so good last week," she said. "I think we underestimated (Silver Lake) a little bit. It was important fus to rebound off of Saturday's loss. Being mad will come out against Osawatomie Friday."
The Baldwin loss derailed Eudora's sense of invincibility -- the team's own sense and the perception of Cardinal opponents.
Against the Bulldogs, Eudora was crippled by a complete absence of outside threats. The Cards' guards were a combined 0-for-21 from the field and one-for-four from the free-throw line.
On the flipside, the Cardinal frontline was 21-of-39. Lauren Kracl (33-points), Erin Kracl (11) and Carrie Lister (7) accounted for all but one of Eudora's 52 points.
Nevertheless, the Cards made a game of it.
The two teams were knotted at 14 apiece after the first quarter.
Baldwin built a 26-17 lead with just more than a minute and a half to play in the second quarter.
Erin Kracl's buzzer-beating three capped a 6-1 run, ending the half. Baldwin led 27-23.
Eudora's frequent third-quarter scoring droughts ended its chances. The Bulldogs lead grew to 42-33 by the end of the third.
The Cards played out the fourth quarter with heart but to no avail.
Baldwin won the tournament for the third consecutive year.
It was the fourth time in tourney history that Eudora finished second.
But this game wasn't about the Top Gun tournament -- it was about a team coming into its own and desperately wanting a piece of its most bitter rival.
"It hurt pretty bad, but it was different than past years," Kracl said. "We wanted to play them, and we weren't scared at all. We played our butts off against them, and we're already ready to play them again. We know we can beat them."
Lost in the Baldwin aftermath is Kracl's simply remarkable 30-point, 17-rebound, 10-block exhibition against Ottawa and the emergence of Lister as a suddenly effective big-game contributor.