May 21st, 2019

machiapostingupLiberal’s Machia Mullens works her way around Garden City’s Keyhana Turner Saturday during the Sub-State Championship in The Big House. Mullens scored 11 points in a 46-18 win. L&T photo/Earl WattBy EARL WATT

  • • Leader & Times

For the second straight year, the Lady Redskins are headed to the state basketball tournament.

This time, it will be the Class 6A tournament after Liberal moved up a classification. Liberal finished third in Class 5A last year.

The Lady Redskins cruised to a 46-18 win over Garden City in the Sub-State Championship Saturday in The Big House.

Liberal’s defense continued to shut down the opposition, holding the Lady Buffaloes to only 18 points for the game and only two in the first quarter.

Katie Horyna sparked the Lady Redskins early with a basket and a three-pointer, and baskets from Audrey Gilmore and Machia Mullens pushed the Lady Redskins to a 9-2 lead.

Horyna added another basket in the second quarter, and Mullens was abel to get a basket and three free throws before half to go along with a pair of free throws from Whitney Hay and a basket from Reagan Watt to push the lead to 20-6 at half.

Horyna hit her stride in the second half, knocking down a three early and adding another basket and a three in the quarter that sparked a 16-6 run for the Lady Redskins and a 36-12 lead.

Much like the Sub-State opener, Liberal coach Carter Kruger pulled his starters early in the fourth quarter when the running clock began, and the Redskins continued to outpace the Lady Buffaloes in the final period for the 46-18 win.

And the celebration began.

The Lady Redskins were awarded their Sub-State champions plaque, and the Rowdy Crowd mobbed the team on the floor.

The Lady Redskins then took turns cutting down the net in The Big House for the second season in a row.

Horyna led the Lady Redskins with 15 points. Mullens scored 11, and Aubrey Warden had eight.

“I was proud of our kids,” Kruger said. “We showed a lot of heart and fight all year long. It wasn’t always pretty tonight, but we finished with an impressive second half. It was fun to watch.”

Liberal put together the blowout despite not having a strong night on offense early.

“We didn’t shoot it great in the first half,” Kruger said. “They were ready for us, give (Garden City) Coach (Mat) Pfeifer a lot of credit. They guarded us and made it tough on us. The crowd gave us the edge there late. Tip the cap to Liberal, the student body and fan support. It was awesome, it was a great environment, great experience for our team. They will never forget it.

The Lady Redskins will now take that experience from last year’s state tournament appearance with them when they face the surprise of the tournament Olathe Northwest who knocked off the top seed of the east Blue Valley North 52-46.

“Experience is huge,” Kruger said. “It helped us tonight early as far as putting the ball in the hoop. But when we go there it will be key. We will play talented teams and rely on every edge we can get.”

Teams will try to focus on some of Liberal’s leading threats, like Garden City focused on Mullens. But Kruger said the Lady Redskins made the adjustment.

“They were keying on Machia, so we let her go on the arc and let Aubrey go to work inside,” he said. “She had a tough start with some fouls, but I am proud of they way she finished.”

But past wins won’t be what this team will remember. What happens later this week will never be forgotten, win or lose.

“They probably won’t remember games against Cimarron in February,” Kruger said. “But they will remember everything about the next week. It’s why you play the game, why you go through the hard times of the season. We want to soak up every moment, go compete and see where we rank against the best in the state.”

When the state tournament starts at 3 p.m. Thursday for the Lady Redskins, Olathe Northwest will have had plenty of time to prepare.

“The teams we play will be ready,” he said. “You see that at the state tournament — low scoring first quarters and then it picks up after that. Hopefully we can shoot the ball well and knock some down. Our kids play hard. You have to show up and play with passion and excitement.”

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