Comeback falls short
Broncos Cunningham difference in season-ending loss
It was close, but not close enough.
The Eudora girls basketball team came back from a 17-point deficit Tuesday against Spring Hill but ultimately fell short 68-60 in the first round of the 4A sub-state tournament.
"We had things going our way for a while," coach Cara Kimberlin said of the season-ending loss. "But then they put Cunningham back in."
That would be Lacey Cunningham, a 5-foot, 10-inch junior that helped pick apart the Cardinals on the inside. She had been sitting out with four fouls until late in the ball game. She scored eight of her 16 points in the final three minutes.
As the game began, the Cardinals found themselves in a hole. The Broncos, with the help of Cunningham and junior Amanda Dittmer, were scoring at will on the inside. They quickly jumped out to an 18-7 lead by the end of the first quarter.
"They were just killing us inside," Kimberlin said. "It was like we were in slow motion, almost in a coma."
The first quarter was also disappointing in the fact that the Cardinals had hoped to set the tone for the game.
"I told them that the first quarter would be very important," Kimberlin said. "It was going to determine how we would approach the rest of the game."
In the second quarter, junior Michelle Deluna and sophomore Erin Kracl began to find their range as the Cardinals had a chance to pull within single digits just before halftime.
Cunningham had other ideas, however, as she found the basket with seconds left to keep the lead in double digits, 35-23.
In the third, the Cardinals continued to have trouble against the inside threat of Cunningham and the torrid outside shooting of Dittmer. The lead soon ballooned to 42-25.
Eudora managed to regroup midway through the quarter as Deluna and senior Kayla Moyer, with some help from freshman Nikki Snider, helped get the team back within 10 by the end of the period.
"Kayla made some big shots in that stretch," Kimberlin said. "We needed that if we were going to stay in the game."
The fourth quarter began with the Cardinals down 49-39 when a peculiar play happened. Deluna drove to the basket and pulled up at the foul line for a shot, the shot went in, but underneath, as the ball was in mid-air Lacey Cunningham fouled Nikki Snider. The basket counted and Snider was awarded a pair of free throws. More importantly, the foul sent Cunningham to the bench with four fouls.
"That was a big play for us," Kimberlin said. "It really got us going."
Eudora took full advantage of Cunningham's absence.
The Cardinals went on an incredible 11-0 run in the span of four minutes to take the lead at 51-50. Eudora managed to push its lead to 55-51 with three minutes to go.
But the Broncos came back as Dittmer, who finished with 28 points, found her range from beyond the arc, tying the game at 57. Then Spring Hill sent Lacey Cunningham into the game.
"I told them to drive the basket and get in her face," Kimberlin said. "We needed to try and foul her out as soon as possible."
Instead, Cunningham made her return payoff immediately with a bucket and a foul, putting the Broncos back on top. Soon the Cardinals found themselves down by six with less than a minute to go. Cunningham sealed the game from the line and finished with 16 points.
"When you get down like that it takes a lot to come back," Kimberlin said. "We just didn't have enough."
The loss was also the final games for seniors Moyer, Joni Ridinger, Alissa Hamilton and Jamie Bowser.
"They didn't say much," Kimberlin said. "I thanked them and told them that it meant a lot to coach them. I've coached Kayla and Alissa since they were in the seventh grade so it was fun."
As for next year, the coach has only one thought.
"Consistency," she said. "We have got to get some consistency out there if were going to be a good team."
The Cardinals finish the season at 8-12.