Dragons fall to Olpe, bring home 3rd
by Bridget Weishaar
The consolation game of the Class 2A state tournament held in Manhattan got underway Saturday with the 24-1 Valley Falls Dragons taking on the 22-3 Hill City Ringnecks.
The returning Dragons topped the Ringnecks 54-50 and claimed the third place trophy, one place higher than last year’s debut.
Opening the game at center court for the Dragons was senior Callie Watson. Watson hauled down the possession in favor of the Dragons and the game got underway.
Ali Brown opened the scoring with a quick 2-point bucket immediately followed by a 3-pointer from Hill City. The Dragons returned fire with points of their own when a pass inside found its way into the hands of Sydney Gish. Gish made good on the basket and the Dragons were up 4-3.
Hill City scoring again took back the lead and then stole the ball on the Dragons’ inbound pass. Brown fouled on the floor giving Hill City another chance to score. The Hill City shot was just off its target, allowing the Dragons a rebound and a chance to head down court. A turnover on a bad pass allowed the Ringnecks to score again and the Dragons found themselves down 7-4 with 4:50 left to play.
A drive through the lane from Lauren Harrington picked up a shooting foul sending Harrington to the line in hopes of two. Harrington’s shots wouldn’t go and the Dragons still trailed by three. Hill City then fouled Watson on a drive under the basket. Watson made good on both free throws bringing the Dragons within one.
With 3:56 left to play, freshman Reagan Kirkwood entered the game and hit a short jumper placing the Dragons up 8-7. The Dragon 1-point lead didn’t last long when Hill City connected with a 3-point shot behind the arch moving up the scoreboard 11-7. The Dragons working the ball around outside the arch were able to free up Jenna Kramer who connected with a three from the top of the key bringing the Dragons back within one.
The Dragons picked up back-to-back fouls on the Hill City possession and the Ringnecks claimed two more points before heading to the free throw line. The free throw missed its mark leaving the Dragons down by one with time running out in the first. A series of turnovers for both teams closed out the first with the Valley Falls Dragons trailing Hill City, 11-15.
Opening the second quarter, Kramer hit for three bringing the Dragons back within one. Hill City fouling placed the ball back in the hands of Kramer at the top of the key. Kramer’s shot fell just left and went out of bounds off a Ringneck defender. The Dragons regained possession of the ball allowing Watson to score two, moving the Dragons ahead on the scoreboard 16-15.
Hill City hit for 4 points before the Dragons could attempt another basket. Kramer was fouled on a shot in the lane and headed for the free throw line. Both attempts hit their mark and again the Dragons trailed by one, 18-19. With just under five minutes left to play, a Hill City foul under the basket brought Gish to the line. The first shot fell tying the game at 19.
The Dragons picked up the rebound but lost control of the ball sending it out of bounds. Hill City got possession but then got caught for traveling, giving the ball back to the Dragons. The Dragons picked up back-to-back buckets from Watson and Kramer, moving the Dragons to the lead, 23-19, with 1:49 left to play in the half.
The Ringnecks were able to score again, before Rachel Frakes went to the basket for another Dragon two. A foul on Hill City brought Kirkwood to the line for the Dragons scoring one and closing out the half, 26-21 in favor of the Dragons.
Hill City opened the scoring in the third with a quick 2-point basket. The Dragons picked up a travel along with back-to-back fouls allowing the Ringnecks to score again. A shooting foul on Hill City sent Kramer to the charity stripe for another two, leaving the Dragons out on top, 28-25.
The Dragons returned the favor to Hill City, the bucket counting and the free throw tying the game with just over four minutes showing on the clock. Hill City fired off another shot connecting for two and the Dragons called for a timeout to regroup.
Returning to the court, Gish hit for two followed by Kirkwood and the Dragons moved ahead, 32-30, with 2:36 left to play. Hill City quickly tied the game and then moved ahead on a steal and another basket. The Ringnecks then fouled sending Kirkwood to the line. Her first attempt fell just short, but made good on the second leaving the Dragons trailing by one.
With under a minute left to play, the Dragons picked up a foul under the basket allowing Hill City two free shots. The Ringnecks connected with both and moved ahead by three, 36-33, with 17.8 left in the quarter.
The Dragons weren’t to be counted out as a pick was set at the top of the key allowing Kramer a 3-point basket at the buzzer tying the game at 36.
The fourth opened much like the previous quarters with Hill City scoring three. Frakes returned fire with two, leaving the Dragons down by one. The Ringnecks lost the ball out of bounds giving possession back to the Dragons. The Dragons wasted no time and cashed back-to-back 3-point baskets from Kirkwood and Brown.
A shooting foul on Hill City allowed Frakes two points and a trip to the free throw line. The attempt fell just short with the Dragons up 46-39. With just 5:06 left to play, Hill City connected with a 3-point shot and called for an immediate timeout.
A series of mistakes on both teams ran the clock to 2:01 before Hill City connected again for a 3-point basket moving them just within one, 45-46. A Hill City timeout would returned the ball to the Dragons.
Kramer broke away from her defender and connected with a long inbound pass from Kirkwood. The basket would count for two along with one on the line moving the Dragons up by three, 49-45.
Kramer caught for a shooting foul, sent Hill City to the line picking up two from the charity stripe. The Dragons led 49-47 with just 1:40 left to play. The Ringnecks were forced to foul in hopes of gaining possession of the ball. Kramer added one along with Watson for one of her own before Hill City connected with a huge three again bringing the score within one, 50-51 in favor of the Dragons.
With just 18.6 left on the clock and the Dragons in possession of the ball, Hill City fouled sending Brown to the line. Brown made good on both attempts. A missed shot attempt from Hill City forced another foul. Kramer went to the line adding one with just 7.4 seconds left.
Hill City’s last attempt at a three fell short of its mark and the game closed out 54-50 with the Dragons bringing home the third place win.
Senior Jenna Kramer led the Dragon scoring with 20, followed by freshman Reagan Kirkwood with nine and teammates Callie Watson and Ali Brown both with seven.
Before heading to Saturday’s game, the Dragons defeated the seventh seed Belleville-Republic, 63-41, in the opening round but fell to Olpe, 46-34, Friday evening. Senior Dragons closing out their high school career in Manhattan were Megan Harrington, Lauren Harrington, Ali Brown, Sydney Gish, Natalie Pickerell, Macee Jepson, Callie Watson, and Jenna Kramer.
Claflin-Central Plains won the 2A championship by defeating Olpe, 62-51. These teams, along with Valley Falls, entered the tournament with undefeated 23-0 records.
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