There were times all they could do was smile.
Carroll lost 54-40 in the Class 5A girls basketball championship game to now-three-time winner St. Thomas Aquinas. The Eagles struggled with Aquinas' physicality in the paint all game.
Allison Thomas, a 6-foot-2 center; Alayna Townsell, a 6-foot forward; and Sereena Weledji, maybe the most powerful and athletic player in the state, combined for 27 points.
The Eagles just didn't have the size, and when Aquinas starting hitting shots from the perimeter, the game was over .
"They were kinda lights-out from the three-point line, and we didn't necessarily expect that," Carroll coach Taylor Dugan said.
Carroll had to rely on its guards to hit shots, and Aquinas was excellent at closing in off screens and contesting shots that were open in the Eagles' semifinal against Liberal.
There were signs of hope though. Carroll had 13 more points off turnovers and caused eight more takeaways than Aquinas. The Eagles beat the Saints 12-5 on second-chance points, too.
And Carroll certainly won in the youth department. During the third quarter, Carroll freshmen Ella Larkin and Khloe Schuckman combined for eight straight points. Some came in transition. Others came on layups against far taller and stronger defenders.
"I think our young girls have been sparks for us this year," Dugan said. "It's really something that we can take out of this and move forward."
Carroll graduates only one senior, forward Ashton McCorry, whom the Eagles rallied behind throughout their state run. Dugan commended McCorry's leadership, even in a state final defeat.
McCorry finished with a team-high 13 points and five rebounds. From midway through the third to the 4:21 mark in the fourth quarter, she scored 11 of 13 Carroll points.
"She did everything she could tonight," Dugan said. "She's been such a superb leader for us. It's been amazing."
Carroll hit a spurt of momentum in the state tournament. The Eagles were good coming in as the No. 4 seed with a 17-5 record, but they went to great in Topeka.
Just to get to the state final, Carroll had to beat top-seeded Liberal in the semifinal. The Redskins had the largest, loudest fan base at the Class 5A tournament. They just ran out of gas.
"I hate to have a consolation of just being proud of them for playing as hard as they did and as hard as they did all season," Dugan said. "... We talked about it in the locker room. We know what we need to do to improve for next year."
Aquinas had a tough road to the final, too, particularly in its semifinal against Maize.
Maize entered the tournament much like Carroll, inexperienced. But once they got into the Kansas Expocentre, the Eagles flipped a switch. Their momentum ran out against Aquinas and lost in the third-place game 43-37 to Liberal.