Salina Just two years ago, the Tonganoxie High girls basketball squad came within one victory of the Kansas Class 4A state championship game.
The Chieftains' title hopes fell short again Friday in the Bicentennial Center with a 73-67 overtime loss to Colby in the semifinals.
"It sucks. I've been here in this exact position before - overtime and everything," said junior Elizabeth Baska, who was on the state-qualifying team her freshman year. "I don't know. I just can't explain it."
Despite a five-point Tongie lead at halftime, Colby came out in the second with an 11-3 run and outscored Tonganoxie 45-34 in the final two quarters and overtime.
"I thought you had two teams out there that liked to run the floor, and when that happens, some are going to hit shots, and you're going to go through periods where you don't hit : and unfortunately our cold stretch came there in the overtime period and probably even late there in the fourth quarter," Tonganoxie coach Randy Kraft said.
Besides giving up 17 offensive rebounds to the Eagles - while coming up with 15 of their own - turnovers were a detrimental part of the Chieftains' game. Tongie's starters committed 19 of the team's 26 turnovers while the team combined for just six steals, compared to the Eagles' 13 swipes.
Tonganoxie starter Baska was responsible for nine of the team's turnovers. However, she made up for that with her second-half production, as she scored all of her team-high 15 points after halftime.
"I knew I had to step it up, and I guess that's what I did," Baska said, "I just wish I could have done more."
Ali Pistora also had a stronger second half, scoring nine of her 11 points after the intermission. But that was largely because of her early foul trouble. She didn't play the final 12 minutes of the first half.
"Ali's gotten into foul trouble before, so we kind of know how to respond to that. She did the best that she could with that foul trouble. We tried to work through it," Baska said.
The Chieftains' top reserves - Tracie Hileman, Christy Weller and Chrissie Jeannin - helped out with 22 total points in regulation.
The biggest disappointment for Pistora came in the final seconds of regulation when she was sent to the free-throw line trailing by one. Pistora made the first attempt, and the Chieftains retained the ball after her second shot missed and whistled out-of-bounds off an Eagles player.
With two seconds remaining, Pistora put up a contested shot in the middle of the lane that hit just about the entire interior area of the rim before bouncing out.
"We took it hard," a sobbing Pistora said about the seniors' emotions following the defeat. "But then we had to keep our heads up for the other ones because we know this is not an important game now, it's the next game after this. So we've got to come out fighting, because it's going to be our last."
The Chieftains will attempt to give senior starters Pistora, Rachel Bogard and Rebecca Bogard at least a third-place finish - something the Chieftains were unsuccessful in doing two years ago - when they face Andover Central in the consolation game at noon today.
"Physically, we can do it. It's just that it will be all mental," Baska said. "Third-place games are always the hardest to play for, because everyone wants first, and not as many people want third. So it'll be all in our heads."