Centre High School point guard Shelby Makovec won’t soon forget March 14, the day she went 14-of-14 from the free-throw line, the final two of which clinched a 48-44 win over St. Paul and third place in the Class 1A Division 1 championship Saturday in Emporia.
Free throws won the day for the Cougars, who scored 27 points from the charity stripe.
“It was fortunate we shot free throws as well as we did, because we didn’t do much from the floor today,” head coach Alan Stahlecker said.
Centre led 42-36 with 1 minute, 52 seconds remaining, but the Indians connected on two 3-pointers and a short jumper to tie the score at 44 with .38 left.
Makovec took the ensuing inbounds pass against the Indians’ full-court press, then fired a long pass to Callie Riffel, who missed a short shot. But Lotti Benning rebounded and scored on the follow-up shot with 17 seconds on the clock, putting Centre up 46-44.
Benning grabbed the rebound on St. Paul’s next missed shot and funneled the ball to Makovec, who was fouled to set up her game-icing free throws.
“She was 14-of-14, she was 11-of-11 last Saturday night, she was 9-of-12 Wednesday night, she’s been incredible the last 10 days,” head coach Alan Stahlecker said.
Shelby Pankratz was 4-of-4 from the free-throw line. Other free-throw scorers were Basore, 3-of 4, Shields 3-of-5, Benning, 2-of-4, and Nellie Kassebaum, 1-of-3.
“The 81.8 percent free-throw shooting for the game was critical in the game’s outcome,” Stahlecker said.
Benning had 11 rebounds. Her 8 blocks made it difficult for St. Paul to score inside. Brenna Shields had 7 rebounds. Makovec scored 25 points.
“It was tremendously exciting for the girls to win the third-place game at the state tournament and bring home the third place trophy,” Stahlecker said. “The only state trophy previously won by the Centre girls in basketball was a second-place trophy brought home by the 1972-73 team in the first year that the Kansas High School Athletic Association held girls’ basketball championships.”
Centre finished the tournament with a record of 22-4.
Playing the top-seeded, three-time defending state champion Hoxie Indians, who were riding an unprecedented 93-0 record, was a daunting task for the Lady Cougars Friday in the semifinals. They were defeated, 37-64.
“Hoxie is well-known for their pressure defense and transition offense, so our focus in preparation for the game was to limit the effect of those on our game,” Stahlecker said. “We actually did pretty well in those areas, but did not challenge their shooting well enough.”
Hoxie got off to a quick start and led by 24 points at half.
Centre had a comeback of sorts in the third quarter, outscoring Hoxie 19-15. The Lady Cougars closed the gap to 9 points by the middle of the third quarter, but numerous turnovers by Centre helped Hoxie push to an 18-2 scoring advantage in the last 9 minutes of the game.
Makovec put a positive spin on the loss.
“We feel that we beat them because we outscored them in the third quarter,” she said.
Centre outrebounded Hoxie 40-33, including 13 by Benning and 8 by Ally Basore. Makovec scored 13 points.
Hoxie won the tournament, finishing with a record of 95-0.
It was the thrill of a lifetime, a high school lifetime, that is. After losing the first round of the 1A Division I girls’ state basketball tournament in Emporia for three consecutive years, the Centre Lady Cougars emerged victorious from the first round March 11 when they defeated Ingalls 46-38.
The victory was especially sweet for Makovec and Shields, who were playing in their fourth state tournament.
The contest remained close until the final minutes of the game. After Ingalls opened scoring with a basket and free throw, Makovec scored 2 points and a free throw, and Pankratz sank a trey to give Centre a 6-3 lead. Centre led by 1 point at the end of the quarter.
Free throws by Makovec and Basore increased the lead to 4 points in the second quarter, but Ingalls went on a 9-point run including several points on fast breaks to take a 16-9 lead.
The Cougars fought their way back to within 2 points by half with free throws by Benning and Makovec and field goals by Basore and Espinoza.
Shields tied the game 18-18 with an opening basket in the third quarter. As Ingalls applied the press, the two teams tied two more times in the quarter, but 2 consecutive baskets by Espinoza gave Centre a 27-23 lead at the end of the quarter.
Several bad passes by Centre allowed Ingalls to take a 1-point lead in the fourth quarter. Baskets by Callie Riffel and Makovec gave the lead back to Centre. After Ingalls’ next possession, however, the Indians tied the game at 36-36 with 3:39 remaining.
Espinoza made a basket and Makovec made 4 free throws and a steal for 2 points to give the Cougars a 44-36 lead. Makovec and an Ingalls player traded free throws in the end for the 46-38 final score.
Centre shot 66.7 percent from the field, and Ingalls shot 57.9 percent. Centre led in rebounds 43 to 33. Makovec, Basore, and Shields had 7 rebounds each, and Benning, Riffel, and Espinoza had 6 each.
Leading scorers were Makovec, 18 points, Espinoza, 9, Pankratz, 7, and Basore, 6. Makovec had 6 steals.