Girls show character in comeback
If you just look at the seeds and the final score, the team that was supposed to win did.
The No. 2-seed Concordia Panthers entered the 4A state basketball tournament at 23-0. Eudora, the No. 7-seed, entered with a record of 16-7.
The Cardinals battled from start to finish, but ultimately lost to Concordia, the eventual state champion, 63-55, and ended their season in the quarterfinals of the state tournament in Salina.
But despite the difference in records, the Eudora girls weren’t intimidated by Concordia’s unblemished record, nor were the Cardinals intimidated by Concordia’s 6-foot-1 post player Alex Muff and point guard Karly Buer, the Panther’s top two players.
With Muff’s height advantage inside, along with fellow 5-foot-10 post player Paige Champlin, the Panthers double-teamed Eudora’s Haley Epperson early, and neutralized Epperson’s patented jump-step for a while.
The Cardinals didn’t play well early, and soon found themselves in a six-point hole. The Cardinals, however, answered right back with five-straight points before falling behind by four at the end of the first quarter and down 13 at halftime.
Three minutes into the third quarter, Eudora trailed by 16 at 42-26. Things didn’t look good for the Cardinals, but Eudora roared back with a 13-4 run to end the period. The third quarter, though, was anything but pretty as 17 fouls were called between the two teams.
“I know the officiating was touchy at times, but that’s just something you’ve got to adjust to, and I thought we made some good adjustments at halftime,” Eudora coach Ryan Luke said. “Our kids played smart in the second half and did a good job.”
With Buer and Muff both saddled with four fouls, the Cardinals clawed closer in the fourth, as Epperson, Kendal Abel and Bailey Scott hit field goals to cut a 16-point lead down to five with 5:20 to play.
Concordia soon put the lead back to eight with two minutes to go before Eudora again answered with two straight field goals to cut the lead to 59-55 with 60 seconds to play and the Eudora crowd roaring.
We were all really pumped,” Abel said. “This is such a big place. It’s our last run we get, and we were going to give everything we could until the buzzer was off.”
In the closing minute, Eudora had two opportunities inside, but a missed layup and missed field goal from close inside forced Eudora to foul. Concordia hit four free throws to ice the game.
The Cardinals ended up eight points short, but the perseverance they showed in the game and all season was something the team and the community can be proud of.