Topeka-Hayden’s Sophia Purcell seemingly drilled every 3 she took. The sharpshooter and other recipients of solid ball rotation that ended in a 3, as well as the focus on Kori Babcock, propelled the No. 11 Topeka-Hayden Lady Wildcats (10-13) 58-33 over the No. 6 Lady Blue Comets (13-8) in the 2020 Class 4A East Sub-State No. 3 playoffs Tuesday night at Chanute High School.
All-SEK performer Babcock scored 17, but no other CHS player put up double figures.
The run for Topeka-Hayden, a group that will now take on No. 1 ranked team in Class 4A Bishop Miege in the second round, started immediately. The Lady Wildcats put up a 30-9 run after Purcell, an All-Centennial League Honorable Mention a year ago, hit a 3 with 6:10 to go in the second quarter. Rotations for Chanute weren’t crisp, and the All-Leaguer took advantage with four 3s in the first half.
Other 3-pointers in the first half were made by Macy Smith with four, Haley Karolevitz with three, and Carley Stuke with one of her own.
Topeka hit 12 3s in the first half, and 14 for the game. Purcell finished the game with 17 points with five 3s, while Karolevitz recorded 12 points on four 3s.
“We kind of ran into a buzz-saw there. When a team shoots like that, that kind of puts you behind the 8-ball there,” head coach Dustin Fox said. “I loved the way our girls continued to compete in the second half, and there was no quit in this group all year long, and we saw that to the very end. They kept fighting and clawing and it wasn’t the result we wanted, but I’m not going to fault the second-half effort. When a team shoots like that, it makes it rough. And to their credit, they moved the ball well and got open looks. I would’ve liked to have got out to some shooters in the first half, but even with the looks that they got, they hit them. Credit to them. That was rough, and then on the offensive end, after we saw them starting to hit shots like that, you start pressing a little bit, and you feel like you have to get it back in that moment. We kind of rushed some stuff offensively, and didn’t get the looks we wanted, and it snowballed on us.”
Babcock, with the help of her teammates creating space, took a barrage of 3s in the second half, but she was only able to sink two in those minutes. All game, Topeka pressured Babcock at the full length of the court, forcing the ball out and putting others in decision-making roles on the offensive end.
Topeka also took this mentality to the other CHS players, stifling the Lady Blue Comets in the interior and on the perimeter. The Lady Wildcats’ height was a problem to deal with as well, as Chanute had a hard time getting good shots beyond the half-court line. Chanute never cut the lead to 20 or less.
Topeka, though, is used to playing this kind of intensity, as the Lady Wildcats have faced 5A and 6A teams all year, including a Washburn Rural team that won the 6A championship last year, the No. 2 team in 4A in Kansas City-Piper, Seaman, and Lansing, which are all teams with 14 wins or more on the year.
“Our girls all year, no matter who we are playing, played hard, and I knew tonight wouldn’t be any different,” first-year Topeka-Hayden coach Carvel Reynoldson said. “We came out and hit some shots that improved our energy that kind of took the wind out of Chanute’s sails, but they’re a good team.”
Chanute has been a good team all year, despite losing a few heartbreaking games. Helping Chanute in winning the other ballgames are the seniors, and these upperclassmen will not play another high school game again.
Departing will be Jacey Lewis, Makayla Schoenhofer and Jillian Vogel. These three seniors provided the little things: energy on defense as well as shot-making ability.
“I just play selfless. I just go for a rebound, put myself out there, if there is somebody open, I’m going to get them the ball over me if they have a better shot. We just play for each other, nobody is going to take a shot if somebody is open,” Schoenhofer said.
The CHS girls ended their season Tuesday, but the memories of the season will live on.