Gardner sows the winning seeds
Cards return and out-muscle Lions
A single second separated the Eudora Cardinals girls basketball team from a five-game winning streak.
Cardinal senior Jodi Wingebach nearly erased a three-point deficit with a buzzer-beating three-pointer Feb. 26 against Gardner-Edgerton. But the trey didn't beat the buzzer. Instead Eudora suffered a disappointing 48-45 loss on the road. The loss snapped a brief three-game winning streak.
The Cards returned home Tuesday for a quarterfinal sub-state contest with the Lansing Lions. The buzzer never came into play as Eudora comfortably advanced with a 60-48 victory.
Eudora had to battle Gardner-Edgerton without the services of two -- and eventually three -- players. Freshman Erin Kracl was unavailable with a stomach ailment. Sophomore Michelle Deluna was still out with a hyper-extended elbow. And sophomore Carrie Lister left the game late in the third quarter with a knee injury.
All three Cardinal players were either current or former starters.
As a result, Eudora carried only one player on its bench with any significant varsity experience, senior Ashley Moran. Nevertheless, the short-handed squad battled hard enough to earn Wingebach's tardy attempt. But the Cards couldn't overcome the clock, nearly two dozen turnovers, and a 50 percent night from the free-throw line.
The free-throw line may have ultimately been the Cardinals' downfall. Gardner made as many free throws as Eudora attempted. And of Eudora's 13 attempts, the team converted just seven. All six misses were by senior Lauren Kracl who is normally very effective from the line.
It's hard to fault Kracl though on a night when she scores 30 of her team's 45 points.
Fortunately for Eudora it was a relatively meaningless loss as far as sub-state assignments were concerned. The Cards 14-6 record still merited a home date in the quarterfinals Tuesday.
That contest pitted Eudora against 6-and-12 Lansing.
Erin Kracl was back, but Deluna and Lister were still unavailable.
Deluna remains doubtful for Thursday's semifinal match-up with Tonganoxie (16-4) but could possibly be ready for the sub-state championship on Saturday. Lister, however, is expected to be ready to play Thursday if her custom knee-brace shows up in time.
The remaining Cardinal starters cruised to an early 12-5 advantage -- an advantage the home team would relinquished.
The victory completed an undefeated home season and earned the senior class at least one more game.
"Us seniors are aware that each game could be our last basketball game ever, so that puts a little bit of pressure on us," Lauren Kracl said. "It makes us want to go out and play our hardest with no regrets."
And yet it may have been a freshman making the biggest statement Monday night.
Erin Kracl returned to the starting lineup in place of the limping Lister -- replacing the girl who had replaced her not so long ago. She responded with a strong 12-point effort.
"(Erin Kracl) earned that spot back," head coach Cara Kimberlin said. "And that's alright. That's good competition back and forth.
"She still has moments when she plays like a freshman, but they're getting fewer and fewer. She really stepped it up."
As did Lansing after Eudora's initial 12-5 run. The Lions closed the deficit to two at the end of the first quarter (16-14).
"I think we came out a little too juiced up," Kimberlin said. "I know a couple of them were really nervous, and I think the adrenaline was flowing a little too heavy in the first quarter."
The Cards and company settled down and responded with a 22-14 second quarter, taking a 10-point lead into the halftime break. Lauren Kracl scored 12 of her 23 points in the quarter.
Eudora began the second half with an 8-2 run, apparently blowing the contest wide open at 46-30.
Slowly and surely, though, the Lions ate away at the Cards' cushion. By the two-minute mark of regulation, Lansing had cut the Eudora lead to four at 50-46.
"They killed us on the boards both ways," Kimberlin said. "They're big and physical, and we talked about that. They were getting second and third chances."
Lauren Kracl ended the Lansing threat moments later with an old-fashioned three-point play. The Cards closed out the game, the home season, and the Lions with a final 10-2 run.
It was a monumental moment for the seniors.
"That's the first time (Rachel) Abel and I have been past the first round of sub-state since we were freshmen," Lauren Kracl said. "It's a good accomplishment and we plan to keep on rolling."
The Cards will roll into Lansing Thursday for a semi-final contest at 6 p.m. with Tonganoxie (62-41 winners over K.C. Piper Monday).