GARNETT — Washburn Rural and Girard both got exactly what they wanted out of Thursday’s late-season addition to the schedule.
For Rural, it was a chance to get a look at a balanced, athletic team with a dominant presence in the paint in 6-foot-4 Kansas State signee Ashley Ray — something the Junior Blues could very well see in Derby in sub-state play. For Class 4A Division II No. 1 Girard, it was a chance to get some much-needed competition in a season in which the Trojans had run rough-shod through their first 16 games.
In the end, however, Rural got the thing both teams coveted the most — a victory. Overcoming a rough shooting night from 3-point range and tremendous defensive effort by the Trojans on sophomore standout Carly Bachelor, the Junior Blues locked down on Girard defensively and pulled away in the second half for a 39-26 victory.
The loss was the first of the season for Girard (16-1), while Rural improved to 13-4.
“It was good for us,” Rural coach Kevin Bordewick said. “We got a look at Ray because we’re going to run into a 6-6 kid at Derby (Kennedy Brown), though she’ll step out and shoot the 3-pointer. But it gives us an idea of what’s in the lane if we go down there. But Girard has ball-handlers, kids that can shoot it and I thought we did a nice job against them.”
Ray was indeed a force inside defensively for the Trojans, particularly in the first half when she had five blocks and all but snuffed anything the Junior Blues tried to get offensively in the paint. Making life just as tough for Rural in the half was its inability to open things up from the outside.
Rural hit just 2 of 14 3-pointers in the first half and was just 4 of 27 overall from the floor as Girard held a 13-11 lead after a low-scoring half.
“Our shooters are generally better than that and this second semester, they’ve been a lot better shooting team than what we showed tonight,” Bordewick said. “We might have been in a little bit of a hurry and not in sync, but I’m fully confident in the girls that were taking those shots.”
Bordewick’s trust in his shooters paid off as Rural connected on a trio of treys in the third quarter to finally get some offensive flow. After Girard had stretched its lead to 17-13 on a Ray putback, the Junior Blues finished the quarter on an 11-2 run with Megan Lucas, Kendall Michalski and Lakhota Conklin all hitting 3-pointers in the spurt.
Rural only made one field goal in the fourth quarter, a bucket from Bachelor, but the Junior Blues shook off a rough start at the free throw line as well to make 7 of 12 in the last 3:02 to hold off Girard, which never really got its offense going, finishing just 10 of 47 overall and 1 of 16 from 3-point range.
Bachelor finished with a game-high 10 points despite a strong defensive effort from Girard to deny her the ball. She did grab 13 rebounds, while Sydney Houser added 12 rebounds and Baylie Sigmund had eight as part of a strong rebounding night for the Junior Blues.
Ray scored 10 and had 10 rebounds and 6 blocks to lead Girard. Despite the loss which denied the Trojans a shot at a perfect season, Trojan coach Brad Herlocker said he had no regrets about taking the game.
“We’ve never shied away from competition and we’ve always tried to go out and schedule good teams, especially when we have a good team, which we do this year,” Herlocker said. “I can’t say enough about Coach Bordewick and he had his team ready tonight and they did a great job on us. … It’s a game that gives us challenge and gives us adversity and as a coach you want your kids to face that before you get to postseason because if you haven’t faced much, you’re dealing with a heartbreaker sooner than later.
“We played our hearts out and gave great effort, but the execution and our shots just weren’t there.”
Washburn Rural … 6 … 5 … 13 … 15 … — … 39
Girard … 6 … 7 … 6 … 7 … — … 26
Washburn Rural (13-4) — Sigmund 1-6 2-3 4, Houser 0-7 7-11 7, Bachelor 3-8 4-6 10, Michalski 2-12 2-4 8, Woolington 1-4 0-0 3, Lucas 1-8 0-0 3, Lutz 0-0 0-0 0, Conklin 1-1 0-0 3, Ebert 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, McDonald 0-0 0-0 0, Hamilton 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 9-46 16-26 39.
Girard (16-1) — Culbertson 1-2 0-0 3, Hanson 1-7 3-4 5, Augustin 1-9 0-0 2, Crain 2-13 2-6 6, Ray 5-11 0-0 10, Murphy 0-2 0-0 0, Franklin 0-0 0-0 0, Sands 0-1 0-0 0, Ferguson 0-0 0-0 0, Cherry 0-2 0-0 0, Gardner 0-0 0-0 0, Flaharty 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-47 5-10 26.
3-point goals — Rural 5-23 (Michalski 208, Lucas 1-6, Woolington 1-3, Conklin 1-1, Houser 0-4, Bachelor 0-1); Girard 1-16 (Culbertson 1-1, Crain 0-8, Augustin 0-6, Cherry 0-1). Total fouls — Rural 8, Girard 21. Fouled out — Girard: Hanson.