HUTCHINSON – Enough had already happened before his team even hit the court at the Sports Arena for Hesston girls coach Matt Richardson to be just a little anxious about the Swathers’ Class 3A quarterfinal with Douglass.
The day had already been a rough one for higher seeds with top-seeded Riley County and No. 4 seed Caney Valley losing.
“I wondered about being on the home bench since both had lost,” Richardson said.
It didn’t take long for any concerns Richardson had to evaporate. Hannah Schmitt made a three-pointer on Hesston’s first possession and the Swathers delivered an early knockout blow, gaining a 20-3 first-quarter lead en route to a 58-34 rout.
“It was great to have that senior knock down that perimeter jumper to start it,” Richardson said. “That just opened the gate.”
The victory was the first at the state tourney for the Swathers since 2004 and puts Hesston (23-1) into Friday’s 6:30 p.m. semifinal against Council Grove (20-4), which upset No. 3 seed Cimarron 58-53 in overtime.
With three of the top four seeds eliminated, Hesston wears the mantle of heavy tourney favorite, but Richardson said that thought hadn’t crossed his team’s mind at all.
“The whole goal today was not to worry about anything else but this game,” Richardson said.
Hesston simply overwhelmed Douglass, making the first state trip in program history, from the opening tip. After Schmitt started things, the Swather defense took over, forcing nine Bulldog turnovers in the first quarter alone and 13 in the opening half.
By the time Douglass finally got on the scoreboard on a Cashlyn Munroe free throw at the 3:18 mark of the quarter, Hesston led 11-0. The Swathers then scored the next seven points and finished the quarter up 17.
Hesston led 29-11 at halftime and never looked back. The Swathers finished with a commanding 30-13 rebounding edge, which led to 25 second-chance points.
“It was our first time here,” Douglass coach Jason Wilson said. “There were some jitters. ... We threw away the ball way too much in the first quarter. Once we settled down, we played a lot better.”
Cami Richardson and Kelsey Unruh each scored 15 to lead the Swathers. Caylee Richardson added 14 points and nine rebounds.
Douglass, which finished the season 18-6, was led by Klair Gibson’s 11 points.
Lyons 57, Riley County 49 — Only days before the state tournament is not exactly the ideal time to tinker with arguably the team’s biggest strength.
But Lyons coach Leanne Hollinger just had a feeling her team’s best chance of upsetting No. 1 Riley County was tweaking the full-court pressure upon which the Lions rely so heavily.
“We made some adjustments the last few days because our press that we usually use is different from their press break,” Hollinger said. “We weren’t sure how it would work, but it went perfect, perfect. The first couple of days of practice, I was nervous. But yesterday in practice, I knew we’d be OK.”
Lyons was more than OK. After harassing Riley County into 17 turnovers and showing some late poise, the Lions are in the state semifinals for the first time since 2003. In Friday’s 3 p.m. semifinal at the Hutchinson Sports Arena, Lyons (16-8) will take on Nemaha Valley (20-4), which pulled out a 36-34 win over Caney Valley.
Even with its press doing the trick, Lyons had to withstand Riley County’s potent three-point attack, which finished the game with 10 overall makes beyond the arc. Two of those came on back-to-back possessions early in the third quarter that gave the Falcons a 37-35 lead.
Instead of letting things snowball, Lyons fired back with a 7-0 run to take the lead for good. Riley County closed with 42-40 by the end of the period on a Taylor Oliver three, but a steal and layup by Brenna McClure and a three-pointer from Lauren Barker to start the fourth quarter put the Lions in control.
“We make sure two points here or two points there don’t get us upset and them going,” Hollinger said. “Early in the season we didn’t do that as well, but we’ve gotten a lot better as the season’s gone on.”
McClure led the way with 16 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and nine steals, while Alexis Lasater and Rachel Minix each added 11 points and Barker had 10.
Oliver finished with five three-pointers and 15 points to lead the Falcons (22-2), while Madison Vargo added 14 and Katelyn Thomson, playing on a torn ACL, added 13. A 42-percent three-point shooting team on the season, the Falcons hit 33 percent (10 of 30).