LOUISBURG — All it took was a Herculean effort from star forward Iniya Hinman to end the Parsons Vikings' 30-year state tournament drought.
Parsons secured its first state tournament berth since 1993 with a 41-39 triumph over the veteran-laden Louisburg Wildcats in the KSHSAA 4A East Sub-State title game Saturday night.
Parsons trailed 18-16 at the conclusion of a bruising first half. Sydney Schibi single-handedly erased a four-point deficit late in the third, going to her bag of tricks with driving euro-step lay-ins on consecutive possessions to knot the contest at 28.
Over a three-minute stretch of the fourth, the Vikings used a 9-0 run to seize control of the contest — Hinman dropped in seven of the nine points to put the Vikings up 39-32.
The Wildcats clawed back as a 7-2 Louisburg run was capped off by Delanie Tally's triple from the top of the key with 32 seconds remaining.
Misfires on four consecutive free throw attempts over the final 20 seconds of regulation didn't faze the Vikings as they successfully leaned upon their defense to close out the contest.
Parsons head coach Pat Schibi said that he's hopeful his squad will soak up the experience.
"I know about the experience they're about to have, and they will never forget it for the rest of their lives," said an elated Schibi.
Having trailed Holton in the semifinals by 16, Parsons seems positioned as a team of destiny.
“We didn’t play our best basketball tonight, but we did enough to get the win,” Schibi said.
Schibi lavished praise on Hinman for her virtuoso performance. The 5-foot-9 junior finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds while knocking down 7-of-7 attempts from the charity stripe.
“We asked her to pretty much do everything. She even handled the ball at times,” Schibi said. “She had a huge game.”
Schibi noted the Vikings’ four-point deficit late in the third as a turning point, adding that his club displayed a veteran-savvy that prevented the contest from slipping away.
“They realized they were right in it and just needed to calm down,” Schibi recounted of a discussion during the full timeout. “To come up here and beat Louisburg on their home court, when they start five seniors, shows a lot of heart for our girls.”
Schibi added that he also preached the importance of the moment during the timeout.
"I told them that they may not have this opportunity next year, but that they have it right here in front of them now," he said. "So go out and get it."
Schibi’s pregame message was a simple one.
“Effort, effort, effort,” he said.
Schibi expressed some concern over the late-game free throw misses, chalking it up to nerves.
“Shooting free throws with a spot in the state tournament on the line is a whole lot different than shooting them in practice,” he said.
Relying heavily on a 3-2 zone, Schibi was thrilled with his club's sparkling defensive showing in the first half.
"Told them to 18, I thought our defense was just phenomenal," he said. "We told them in the locker room at halftime that they just needed to keep playing and that they were the better basketball team. We made the plays we needed to make tonight."
Parsons' game-plan revolved around containing Louisburg's long-range shooting threats — Adyson Ross, Ava Baker and Mackenzie Rooney. The Vikes' zone was largely effective, as the Wildcats finished 3-for-15 from 3-point land.
"We did a good job of getting out on their shooters and knowing where they were,” Schibi said. “The girls did a good job of watching the film and they stuck with the game-plan.”
Schibi has rebuilt the program from ashes after taking the reins four years ago.
“We didn't win a game my first year,” he said, of the 0-19 mark for the 2019-20 campaign.
Lone senior Briona Patterson has been a steadying force during the journey.
“We’ve definitely been through the wringer and the girls have stuck with it,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Parsons has a "me against the world" mentality, according to Hinman.
"I don't think people really believed much in us," she said.
Sydney Schibi echoed those sentiments.
"This feels awesome," she said. "Coming in freshman year I never thought we would have made it this far. There is no other feeling like it.
As for that crafty Euro-step, Schibi said she's been perfecting it since junior high.
Parsons (15-6) plays in the KSHSAA 4A State Tournament in Salina next week.
“We’re going to approach it just like any other game,” Schibi said. “We want to go 1-0 every single game. We won’t change routines or anything, and will just keep grinding.”
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