Athena Alvarado was superb and Heights girls coach Kip Pulliam was pleased with his team’s execution and effort, for the most part.
It wasn’t enough, though, as Salina Central made 10 three-pointers and took control of the game early in the third quarter on its way to a 55-44 victory in a Class 5A sub-state final Saturday night.
Emma Cain made four three-pointers and scored 18 points for Central (18-4). Casey Knoth added 14 points (including two three-pointers) and 11 rebounds, and Myah Ward had three three-pointers and scored 10.
The Mustangs were 10 of 16 beyond the arc and 16 of 37 (42.3 percent) for the game.
“I thought our girls played great,” said Heights’ Pulliam, whose team finished 15-7. “In our press and trap, we want them to take the quick shot, but they just made them.
“We fought through all their little runs and were still in the game and I told the girls to just keep battling. When a team shoots it like tha,t it’s just hard to win.”
The loss overshadowed Alvarado’s herculean 25-point, eight-rebound effort. She was 10 of 15 from the field and 5 of 7 at the foul line.
“She’s taken the team on her back when our other two leading scorers got hurt,” Pulliam said. “She’s done a wonderful job. The others girls stepped up, too, girls that weren’t playing as much. Tonight was probably one of the better games they’ve played all year.”
Heights trailed 35-34 early in the third quarter before Central got some separation with an 8-0 run.
Leading 37-31 after three quarters, Central’s first four field goals of the fourth quarter were 3-pointers and the Mustangs built a 50-39 lead with just under 3 minutes left. Heights got no closer than seven (51-44) with 29 seconds left.
The Falcons shot 37.2 percent (16 of 43).
Heights: Lowe 3, McElrath 4, Patrick 4, Alvarado 25, Teague 1, Powell 7.
Salina Central: Stewart 3, Ward 10, Backes 3, Cain 18, Merkle 7, Knoth 14.