SALINA — McPherson senior Casyn Buchman gave her teammates a huge hug at the end of the Bullpups' 52-40 victory over Newton on Friday.
For Buchman, it felt good to be going back to the Class 5A basketball tournament.
"My heart is racing right now," she said. "They played us close the last time we met, so our mindset was pretty focused."
The win over Newton in the sub-state championship gave McPherson its second consecutive berth.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
McPherson built a quick lead in the first quarter by holding Newton to one first-quarter basket.
"Defensively, I thought we were pretty sharp all night," McPherson coach Chris Strathman said. "We wanted to take their strengths away. For the most part we did that consistently all night."
Katelyn Loecker and Sarah Gaeddert combined for 14 points in the first half to give McPherson a 25-20 halftime lead.
Newton (19-3) fought back in the third quarter. Down by seven, Madison Pendry hit back-to-back three-pointers, including one at the third-quarter buzzer, to close the gap to 29-27.
"We turned it over at the wrong point in the game. We had three turnovers in a row after we got (the lead) down to two," Newton coach Randy Jordan said. "They're a good team and we're a good team. It's a shame when you have two teams that deserve to be in the state tournament, but it is what it is and they deserve to go."
Loecker scored four of her game-high 14 points to help McPherson (20-2) pulled away with a 12-2 run in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
"I was proud of our composure after they made that run at the end of the third quarter. It would've been real easy for us to get scared," Strathman said. "They're going to make runs. We know that's going to happen. We made the last run."
Up 44-36, McPherson put the game away by hitting 9 of 12 free throws in final three minutes.
"We had our kids step up and hit them in clutch situations," Strathman said. "It wasn't real tight in the fourth quarter, but if you don't make those it is. The kids just came through."
Gaeddert and Buchman had 12 points each for McPherson in the win. Avery Vogts led Newton with 11 points.
Newton (19-3) 6 9 12 13 — 40 McPherson (20-2) 11 9 9 23 — 52
NEWTON: Pendry 7, Hiebert 8, A Lehman 2, Scott 4, Vogts 11, K Lehman 8. Totals 12 (3) 7-9 40.
McPHERSON: Loving 3, Hein 4, Ruder 2, Buchman 12, Bruner 5, Gaeddert 12, Loecker 14. Total 11 (3) 21-31 52.