TOPEKA – Grace Hagan has been playing basketball with Sam Bachrodt since the second grade, and she has learned over the years when Bachrodt is about to dig deep down and pull out a special performance.
Wednesday night wasn’t the first time Hagan has seen it, but that didn’t make Bachrodt’s performance in a 55-28 demolition of Topeka Seaman in the Class 5A quarterfinals any less spectacular.
Thirty-two points. Ten straight makes in the second half. Out-scoring an entire team at the state tournament.
“There’s been plenty of those times where she’s done stuff like that,” Hagan said, “but they’re still fun to watch. I knew when I saw that look in her eyes on the court that she was going to take over that game.”
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Bachrodt has won a state championship. She has led the team in scoring in all four of her seasons, all of which have seen the Crusaders not only reach the state tournament but also reach the semifinals.
She has had plenty of big-time performances in big-time games, but on Wednesday, Bachrodt may have been at her best. It was no coincidence that it came in what could have been her final game.
“I’ve been thinking about this game for the entire year,” said Bachrodt, who also added 14 rebounds. “If you lose, you’re done forever, so it puts a lot on the game. I knew I had to step up and I was mentally prepared for this game.”
It didn’t matter that her teammates combined to shoot 21.4 percent without her. It didn’t matter that Seaman star Tatyana Legette scored 22 points. It didn’t matter who Kapaun was playing on Wednesday.
Bachrodt was going to win.
“She just told everybody to hop on,” Kapaun coach Billy Graf said. “We’ll be fine.”
Kapaun already led 27-10 at halftime when Bachrodt began her incredible run of 10 straight made shots – seven baskets and three free throws – in an 11-minute span in the second half.
It was as thorough of domination as possible to deliver. In one sequence, Bachrodt used her favorite behind-the-back dribble move to propel her toward the rim and finish after a spin move for good measure. In another, she sensed the defense playing off and pulled on a three-pointer a foot behind the line.
“State heightens everything,” Bachrodt said. “I think my competitiveness just intensifies.”
She’ll need another heroic effort if Kapaun is to win another state championship, as Leavenworth, a team with three Division I commitments who stand 6-foot or taller, await the five-guard lineup from the Crusaders in Friday’s semifinals.
All that mattered Wednesday was that Bachrodt had done it again and anything felt possible after that.
“She’s just so competitive,” Graf said. “She just has that, ‘I will not lose.’ It’s pretty special to watch.”
BV Southwest 47, Carroll 37 – It was a spectacular streak of defensive excellence, but it did not carry over into the Class 5A tournament for Carroll.
Carroll turned in a good effort, but it had made its late-season run behind great ones and lost without its best to balance out an uneven offense.
“I’ve always prided myself in defense and I’ve always loved when a team works hard on the defensive end,” Carroll coach Taylor Dugan said. “With the way they had been playing, I truly believed we had a chance in this game. We just had a few too many errors.”
The defense that held Kapaun, Heights, Goddard, and Andover Central to an average of 31.8 points was not the same as the one in the first quarter against BV Southwest. Carroll couldn’t contain dribble penetration and allowed BV Southwest to slice up its defense, falling behind 15-7 in the process.
The Eagles never truly recovered, as their offense could not produce steady points. They came within four points twice in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t support a run at the lead with the defensive stops they needed.
“We just weren’t playing very good on-ball defense,” Dugan said. “We kept letting them drive to the basket and then our backside defense wasn’t there. For some reason (Wednesday) just wasn’t our night.”
BV Southwest made 10 straight free throws in the final four minutes to close out the win, which was led by 17 points from Rilynne Like.
Ashley Carrillo led Carroll (16-7), which was making its first state appearance since 2011, with 11 points.
Leavenworth 49, Newton 31 – When Leavenworth, a team with three 6-foot-plus forwards all signed to play in Division I, pushes its lead to double digits early, that’s usually the cue for its opponent to relent.
Instead, Newton rallied for 12 straight points and played Leavenworth to a tie in the first half. The Railers were shut down in the second half, scoring eight total points, but those first 16 minutes were what had coach Randy Jordan beaming.
“That was so special to me to see my kids out there playing that hard,” Jordan said. “They didn’t panic, they just kept playing hard and kept battling. That’s all I can ask for as a coach.”
Newton hung with the top-ranked team in the class, for a half at least, thanks to the stellar shooting of senior Taylor Stahly, who connected on three three-pointers during the 12-0 run and five total to finish with a team-high 15 points.
Leavenworth, which was allowing fewer than 25 points, eventually pulled away with its height advantage. Rachel Blackburn finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds and LaToshia Jones added a game-high 16 points.
“I’m telling you, the girls they believed they could beat that team at halftime,” Jordan said. “There’s no question about it. But to beat a team like that, it’s going to take a fantastic game from somebody.”