The Concordia Panthers now have to readjust their goals.
After being knocked out of the sub-state tournament in the first round each of the past three seasons, the Panthers set as a goal the winning of that first-round game.
Concordia accomplished that goal by defeating Smoky Valley 47-38 in the opening round of the Class 4A-Division II sub-state Thursday night in the Concordia Junior-Senior High School gymnasium.
The Panthers (14-7) will take on North Central Kansas League rival Clay Center (7-14) in the championship game at 6:00 Saturday night.
“It was one of the goals we set at the beginning of the season, win that first game of sub-state. I told them now this is a good year. They have accomplished all three of their goals, anything after that is just going to make it special,” Concordia coach Michael Wahlmeier said, “What I liked is there wasn't a lot of jumping around in the locker room. They were happy they won, they accomplished their goal, but they know what they want to do. They want to win Saturday.”
Clay Center downed Chapman 34-27 in the other first-round game Thursday night.
Concordia, which had beaten Smoky Valley twice this season, took control of the semifinal game from the opening tip.
The Panthers held Smoky Valley scoreless the first 7:42, and built an 11-0 lead.
“We had been working hard on it,” Wahlmeier said of the stingy defense, “They missed some shots and we did a good job of rebounding them and not allowing them any second chance shots.”
Smoky Valley's first basket came on a short baseline shot by Katie Bellah with 18 seconds to play in the first period.
Megan James knocked down a baseline jumper as time ran out in the first quarter to put Concordia up 13-2.
James scored five of her 13 points in that first period.
Hannah McBride connected on two three-point baskets in the first 1:51 of the second stanza to pull Smoky Valley within five points, 15-8.
McBride led the Vikings with 16 points.
James scored on a drive, and McBride went one of two from the free throw line to make it a 15-9 game.
A basket by Tristen Leiszler gave Concordia a 17-9 advantage.
Leiszler matched James with 13 points.
McBride score again, and Smoky Valley trailed just 17-11.
James hit from 16 feet and then made one of two free throws to put the Panthers on top, 20-11.
Smoky Valley (3-18) scored the final four points of the first half, and trailed just 20-15.
The two teams traded baskets over the first five minutes of the second half, and the Vikings closed the gap to three points, 24-21, on a layup by McBride.
“In the second and third quarters they were really pressuring the guard and weren't doing a good job of moving the ball,” Wahlmeier said.
Consecutive baskets by Leiszler pushed Concordia's lead to 28-21.
It was a 30-23 game when McBride made one of two free throws to cut the lead to six points with 9.5 seconds left in the third quarter.
Jordynn Gumm was fouled with one second on the clock. She made both free throws to put Concordia on top 32-24.
The Panthers opened the final period by pounding the ball into the post.
A basket by Molly Adams made it 34-24.
Adams scored inside again, and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but Jordan Eshbaugh grabbed an offensive rebound, and scored.
Eshbaugh would follow up another Panther miss to push the lead to 40-24.
A three by Leiszler gave Concordia a commanding 43-24 lead with 4:40 to play.
Smoky Valley would make things interesting by going on a 14-1 run to pull within six points, 44-38, when McBride made two free throws with 38 seconds remaining.
“We just needed to do a better job of taking good shots. We were rushing some things,” Wahlmeier said.
Leiszler missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity one second later, but the Vikings turned the ball over.
The Panthers made three of four free throws in the final 31 seconds to secure the win.
Adams scored 11 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for Concordia.
Eshbaugh finished with six points and 11 rebounds.
Concordia takes on a Clay Center team it split with during the regular season.
The Tigers won the first game at Concordia, and the Panthers battled back from 22-9 down to win at Clay Center in the rematch.
“We know they are going to be ready for us. They are going to come out and play hard, and we have to match that energy,” Wahlmeir said, “It is who wants it more.”
McBride 5-4-2 16, E. Deterding 4-0-4 8, Hubele 2-0-2 4, Anderson 1-0-3 2, K. Deterding 0-0-2 0, Hattabaugh 2-0-3 4, Bellah 2-0-0 4, Rose 0-0-1 0. Totals: 16-4-17 38.
Gumm 0-2-1 2, Lambert 1-0-3 2, Eshbaugh 3-0-2 6, Garcia 0-0-1 0, Adams 5-1-4 11, Boley 0-0-3 0, Leiszler 5-2-0 13, James 5-3-0 13. Totals: 19-8-13 47.