STATE-BOUND / Centre defeats Goessel in all-Wheat State League sub-state finals

Members of the Centre girls? basketball team celebrate their newly-won sub-state championship Saturday at the Class 1A-Division I tournament hosted by Rosalia-Flinthills. The Cougars defeated Goessel, 37-21, in the finals to advance to the state tournament in Emporia for the fourth consecutive year. Janae Rempel / Free Press
Members of the Centre girls? basketball team celebrate their newly-won sub-state championship Saturday at the Class 1A-Division I tournament hosted by Rosalia-Flinthills. The Cougars defeated Goessel, 37-21, in the finals to advance to the state tournament in Emporia for the fourth consecutive year. Janae Rempel / Free Press

For the fourth consecutive year, the Centre girls basketball team punched its ticket to the Class 1A-Division I state tournament.

This year, it came after a 37-21 victory over Wheat State rival and league champion Goessel in the Rosalia-Flinthills sub-state finals Saturday.

?This is the fourth year in a row going to state,? Centre coach Alan Stahlecker said. ?We graduated four seniors last year, and I don?t think there?s anybody who thought we?d have a chance this year.?

The second-seeded Cougars contained the top-seeded Bluebirds with a stingy zone defense in what turned into a low-scoring game.

?I?d have never guessed we could keep them under 30,? Stahlecker said. ?I expected a low-scoring game, but I thought it?d be in the low 40s.?

Goessel coach Ryan Hoopes said more disappointing than the loss itself was the way the Bluebirds lost.

Hoopes praised his team?s defensive effort but lamented?the Bluebirds? offensive struggle. Goessel shot just 15 percent from the field.

?Scoring only 21 points will not beat any team, let alone a team that averages 50 a game,? Hoopes said. ?We picked a bad game to go cold from the field. Credit Centre?s defense, though, as well. They did a great job shutting down our big girls inside and contesting every shot we had.?

In a competitive first quarter, Goessel took an early lead out of the gate and led by as many as 8-5 after Aleena Cook scored two consecutive baskets off of turnovers. The Bluebirds led, 10-8, at the end of the first quarter.

But when Goessel shots refused to fall, Centre took advantage. Shelby Makovec scored to tie the game at 10, and Callie Riffel added a pair of free throws to put the Cougars in front. After Eden Hiebert made one of two free throws?Goessel?s only point of the quarter?Centre enjoyed a 7-0 run to lead, 19-11, at halftime.

Centre?s Shelby Makovec drives into the lane guarded by Goessel?s Aleena Cook. Makovec led all scorers with 26 points in Centre?s 37-21 sub-state championship win. Janae Rempel / Free Press
Centre?s Shelby Makovec drives into the lane guarded by Goessel?s Aleena Cook. Makovec led all scorers with 26 points in Centre?s 37-21 sub-state championship win. Janae Rempel / Free Press

The Bluebirds trimmed the deficit to four with a 7-3 run capped by a Page Hiebert three that brought Goessel within 22-18. Shelby Pankratz responded by draining a three, giving Centre a 25-18 advantage, a margin that held to the end of the third quarter.

Fourth-quarter scoring belonged to Makovec. The senior scored all 12 of Centre?s points, including a string of eight at the start that put the Cougars firmly in front, 33-18. Makayla King broke Goessel?s scoring drought with a basket with 1:37 to go, then Makovec scored Centre?s final four points on two separate trips to the free-throw line.

Page Hiebert added one final free throw, bringing it to the final 16-point spread.

?We had so many people step up,? Stahlecker said. ?It wasn?t an offensive night, either team, but we got enough done.?

Stahlecker praised the intensity displayed by his team.

?We generally play with good intensity, but tonight?s intensity was beyond what I expected,? he said. ?It?s what I wanted, but it?s beyond what I really expected.?

Makovec led all scorers with 26 points for Centre, including a perfect 11-for-11 from the free-throw line. Lotti Benning pulled down 13 rebounds.

Page Hiebert led Goessel with eight points.

?We had moments where I thought maybe we could make a run but just never got over that hump,? Hoopes said. ?I feel like we panicked a little down the stretch and lost that fire to crawl out of the hole we were in.?

With the loss, Goessel concludes the season with an overall record of 19-4, including the first-round tournament bye. The Bluebirds were 7-0 in Wheat State league play, including a 43-32 victory over Centre when the teams met in January.

?The season didn?t end the way we hoped it would, but these girls produced a very successful season and should feel proud of their accomplishments,??Hoopes said. ?(With) most of them returning next year, they will be hungry to make it past this point next year.?

Coming?The Cougars will need to continue playing with that level of intensity, Stahlecker said, in this week?s Class 1A-Division I state tournament at White Auditorium in Emporia.

Centre (20-3) has received the No. 5 seed and will face No. 4 Ingalls (21-2) Wednesday at 4:45 p.m. in the quarterfinals.

With a win, Centre will face either No. 1 Hoxie (23-0) or No. 8 LaCrosse (18-5) Friday at 3 p.m.

The other half of the bracket features No. 2 Waverly (22-1) versus No. 7 Centralia (19-4) and No. 3 St. Paul (21-2) versus No. 6 Kensington-Thunder Ridge (19-3).

The championship will be played Saturday at 4 p.m.