SALINA — The Cheney girls' 64-52 win over Holton on Friday afternoon in the Class 4A semifinals was supposed to be a celebration of the Cardinals getting a chance to win their first state championship.
Instead, it was a devastating injury that had everybody's attention.
Early in the fourth quarter, standout Cheney center Merissa Quick was about to make her way downcourt to play defense after trying to grab a rebound. Before she could make her first stride, a Holton player stepped on her left foot. Her forward momentum caused the foot to turn awkwardly and she was left lying on the court in severe pain.
X-rays showed a break and Quick, the Cardinals' leading scorer, will not play in today's championship game.
"Yeah, it hurts us a lot," Cheney coach Rex Casner said. "We have to go into tomorrow without what had turned out to be our leading scorer so far this tournament."
Much of the credit to the Cheney's undefeated season has gone to Quick and her presence in the middle. She is 6-foot-2, athletic and does things nobody on the Cardinals' roster can do.
It was the same thing Friday afternoon, as Quick scored 11 points and grabbed 12 rebounds before her exit.
"It changes up what we want to do," Casner said. "I'm sure we will be pressured more on the perimeter, because they don't have to worry double-teaming Merissa. All I can do is prepare us the best we can and I know we didn't come here to take second."
For a stretch after Quick left, Cheney looked rattled and didn't have a the big presence in the post to go to. But what was an encouraging sign was Cheney's role players stepped up.
Jacie Scheer, Peyton Scheer, Kylie Patterson and Hailey Twietmeyer scored all but two of the Cardinals' 16 fourth-quarter points.
Without Quick, the one thing the Cardinals have to lean on more than ever is No. 2 scorer Ally Nikkel, who at times dominated the first half. She scored 12 points, including the last four points of the second quarter, which put Cheney up 34-20.
Shots will come more difficult though, as Concordia will most likely try to deny Nikkel the ball and make others score.
"I think I'm going to have to step twice as much tomorrow because Merissa is such an important part of the team," Nikkel said. "I know the post players are going to have to fill in as well, but it's so hard to replace Merissa."