Lady Chiefs bow out of playoffs

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

KANSAS CITY -- The eighth-ranked Santa Fe girls' basketball team was barely three minutes away from its third straight MSHSAA Class 2 Sectional victory and a spot in the quarterfinals.

The Lady Chiefs didn't reach that goal. Trailing by nine points, Mid-Buchanan closed the contest at Kansas City with a 19-4 sprint, forcing nine turnovers along the way, to a 64-58 victory.

"A little bit bewildered" was Santa Fe head coach Jeremy Hobbs' state of mind afterwards, "just because it happened so fast. "That was two good teams, they played a good game and they each threw their punches. But they threw a good one at the end."

What won it for the Lady Dragons was their full-court press, but when the game began it showed little impact. Instead, it gave the Lady Chiefs opportunities -- although not ones fully exploited. Sophomore Josey Burton finished two transition goals off the press-breaker, with second-chance buckets by junior Sadie Limback and Burton produced a 13-3 start.

However, Santa Fe missed four lay-ups and three put-backs during that stretch.

"I really liked how the tempo started, because our scouting report said beat that front wave ... and you're going to get looks at the back end," Hobbs said. "I'm afraid to see how many we didn't finish in the first quarter."

Mid-Buchanan scratched back into contention, sophomore Jaele Barber and junior Jillian Rumpf each scoring six points for a brief lead before freshman Carrigan Smith closed the half with a drive to the hoop to put the Lady Chiefs up by a point.

Smith drilled a three-pointer to begin the second half, Santa Fe getting 17 points from Limback during a 30-22 span.

Ahead by nine points with 3:31 to go, the Lady Chiefs were sitting pretty. Then they collapsed.

With Santa Fe turning the ball over on five straight possessions, three on Rumpf steals, the Lady Dragons reeled off 11 straight points in less than a minute. Rumpf connected from outside, came up with a steal near mid-court and took it to the rack for a 58-56 lead with 2:10 remaining. Burton tied it with two free throws, but then Limback fouled out -- taking with her 24 points and a state playoff--record 31 rebounds, tied for sixth-most in MSHSAA history.

Rumpf made both charity shots, but then missed the front end of a one-and-one. However, Mid-Buchanan came up with three straight takeaways, one resulting in a transition bucket for Barber, and sank four of six from the free-throw line during the final 45 seconds.

"That's a team that likes to attack. You know it's going to happen fast, and it did," Hobbs said. "It was a wave that we couldn't handle and it got into our heads a little bit."

Rumpf finished with a game-high 27 points and six steals, with Barber adding 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Dragons (23-5), who tallied 21 points off of turnovers with a 14-4 edge in fast-break scoring.

Mid-Buchanan will face No. 9 Adrian, which whipped New Franklin, 60-36, in Saturday's quarterfinal at Liberty.

Burton and Smith each had 12 points for Santa Fe (26-2), which had won 11 games in a row since losing to Marshall in the Slater Tournament championship game.

Fortunately for the Lady Chiefs, there's plenty of talent returning -- Kuecker, who Hobbs described as "irreplaceable," being the only senior starter.

"A lot of the youth got to play this year and they got to learn," Hobbs noted. "I'm excited to see what they can do next year."

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