ALTAMONT — It was all out war in Altamont.
In the quarterfinals of the KSHSAA 4A Girls State Tournament, the visiting Louisburg Wildcats came back to edge past the Labette County Grizzlies 49-48.
Monday’s tilt, played on Labette County’s home floor as part of KSHSAA COVID-19 strategy, featured multiple lead changes in the final minute. Both teams combined to shoot 45 free throws and committed 40 fouls. The physicality on the floor mirrored improvised explosive devices with bodies constantly hitting the floor.
“It was the whole time,” Labette County head coach Kristi Snider said. “I don’t think I could’ve asked anymore out of my kids. Yeah, we had some letdowns at the end defensively. But it’s hard. They’re a unique bunch. I feel bad for the seniors. They made it to state and they have nothing to be ashamed of. They gave us everything tonight.”
Despite holding a single-digit lead through most of the night, the Grizzlies trailed 48-45 in the final 20 seconds of the game. Karsyn Stewart knotted the excursion with a 3-pointer in transition.
On the ensuing possession for Louisburg, Alyse Moore was fouled with the ball and hit 1-of-2 free throws in what proved to be the final bullet fired.
Megan Foote led the Wildcats with 15 points with Jordan Mynsted and Madilyn Melton adding 11 and 10 respectively.
Labette County got its blitz on offense from its bigs. Madison Brannin led the Grizzlies with 14 points while Anna Dean added 11.
Perhaps the biggest black mark on Labette County’s side of the scorebook came in the free throw department. The Grizzlies were 13-of-22 from the charity stripe with four of its nine misses coming in the fourth quarter.
“A lot of it was them being so physical on us,” Snider said. “We had girls coming out of the game bleeding.”
As a desperation heave in the final second bounced off the backboard, the gulf of emotion between both teams burst. Louisburg’s players jumped in elation as many of Labette County’s hit the floor in despair.
“The kids should have been upset,” Snider said. “The more we invest, the harder it is to experience it when we fail. The harder the losses hurt. Yeah, we missed some free throws and some shots. There’s always mistakes along the game. But these girls poured themselves into this game.”
Louisburg, now 19-4 on the season, advances to Salina for the state tournament semifinals. The Wildcats will face McPherson (20-3) on Friday with Bishop Miege and Andale facing off in the other semifinal.
As for the Grizzlies, the SEK League champions’ season ends with a 19-3 record. The careers of seniors Claire Carnahan, Madison Hayward, Elsie Sorrell and Paige Shomber also came to an end with the loss.
Snider, however, commanded perspective for the campaign.
“It’s always hard when it ends,” Snider said. “But when you look back, we got 22 games when we had no idea what we’d get this year. Everybody came out of the season in good shape. Even through all the COVID, we’re healthy. That’s all you can ask. And we got better as the year went along. This was one of the most resilient bunches I’ve ever had.”
Nevertheless, the post-traumatic stress of Monday’s loss will linger.
“It sits with me for about a year,” Snider said. “I don’t forget what it feels like in that locker room. I won’t forget hearing Louisburg’s cheer. That churns in my gut. And that motivates us.”
The Grizzlies return a massive corps of starters and talent next season. Labette County will undoubtedly be the preseason favorite to take the SEK League again next season.
“The bar is not going down,” Snider said. “That’s what people don’t understand. When I look at my phone, there will be so many messages from former players. They live in this program. They’re all extremely proud of Labette County High School tonight. I can’t imagine anyone saying they weren’t.”
KSHSAA 4A STATE TOURNAMENT
Louisburg 49, Labette County 48
Labette Co.: 14 12 8 14 — 48
Louisburg: 11 12 9 17 — 49
Labette County: Karsyn Stewart 7, Lauren Forbes 7, Claire Carnahan 4, Jasmine Perez 1, Anna Dean 11, Madison Brannin 14, Elsie Sorrell 4
Louisburg: Brianne Kuhlman 1, Adyson Ross 2, Delaney Wright 5, Brooklyn Diederich 3, Alyse Moore 2, Madilyn Melton 10, Jordan Mynsted 11, Megan Foote 15