State tourney caps EHS girls season
Looking back, the 2008-2009 Eudora girls basketball team undoubtedly has a lot to be proud of.
The Eudora High girls finally broke through and won its sub-state after falling in the championship game the previous two years. It was the first time since 1992 the Eudora girls basketball team advanced to the state tournament. And Eudora coach Ryan Luke said a lot of that credit goes to Eudora’s six seniors.
“We accomplished a lot,” Luke said. “And that senior group really put their stamp on the program. I’m really thankful for them and the contributions they’ve meant to the program. It was a lot of fun and a lot of great memories.”
Senior forward Haley Epperson led the Cardinals with 15 points and seven rebounds a game. Epperson was named first team all-league, and fellow senior guard Bailey Scott chipped in 11 points a game and was named second-team all-league.
For most of the season, Eudora started five seniors, with Rachel Pyle, Kendal Abel and Mariah Webb. Abel and Webb hustled all year and reserve guard Tianna Dunnaway pushed them during practice.
Though Eudora lost to eventual state champion Concordia 63-55 in the first round of state, the girls battled back from a 16-point deficit and trimmed the lead to four with a minute to play. The Cardinals went toe-to-toe with the state champ, and the comeback showed the Cardinals could play with the best of the Class 4A teams.
“I think this group felt confident that we could compete against them,” Luke said. “We had our ups and downs and we played some really tough teams, and I think those teams really helped prepare us for the end. Even the last game we played against Concordia, that was probably the best game we played all year as far as our aggressiveness and what we did offensively. They were a good bunch of kids. I knew they’d step it up when they needed to and that’s what they did.”
Eudora started the year 9-1 and notched big wins over Anderson County, Silver Lake, Baldwin and De Soto. Eudora also took second-place at the Eudora Invitational, losing to Paola 56-44. The game was much closer than the 12-point final, as Eudora and Paola traded punches throughout. Paola led by six late in the contest and hit two late threes to break the game open.
The loss didn’t affect the team too much, as it went on to win six straight games before falling to Lansing in the championship game of the Tonganoxie Invitational. The Cardinals lost their next three games before bouncing back with a win against league foe Louisburg. The Cardinals followed that win with a 74-24 win over Atchison. After a loss to Gardner on the road, the Cardinals rebounded by winning five of their next six games and topped St. James, 42-25, to advance to state.
“We had an awesome year,” Luke said. “They were just an awesome bunch of kids. It was probably the most enjoyable year that I’ve had coaching as far as working with the kids. And the last four years the seniors have been great. I’m really going to miss them. I wish we had more games and I could coach tonight.”
The Cardinals finished the year at 16-8 and fourth in league. Next year, the Cardinals will lose most of its scoring and rebounding. But the squad returns a host of players who logged significant varsity minutes in junior Evan Folks, sophomore forward Shea Lounsbury and freshman Jennifer Bowser.
“I think we’re going to have a great bunch of kids back,” Luke said. “There’s a lot of inexperience there in some ways, but I think they understand that they’re going to have to step up and it’ll be a lot of fun to see who fills those roles and there’s no doubt we will. I think we have a lot of great talent and great potential coming back, so I’m excited.”