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Through three quarters of Saturday’s girls championship game of the Basehor-Linwood Invitational, Holton handled the pressure applied by Hayden, committing just nine turnovers.
The result was a somewhat predictable 10-point lead entering the final quarter.
The fourth quarter, however, Holton resembled that shopping cart with the wobbly wheel, turning it over nine times and failing to convert on a number of point-blank looks. The result was equally predictable as the Wildcats had to fight off a late Hayden charge to claim a 41-37 victory in a battle of ranked Class 4A teams.
“We gave them every opportunity to come back and get us,” Holton coach Jon Holliday said. “We didn’t play very smart the fourth quarter — I’m not sure we played that smart the whole game — and we got to standing around and watching the clock tick down.
“But the thing I told them was we fought through it, and that’s what you’ve got to do in a game like that.”
Holton (No. 2 in 4A) had beaten Hayden (No. 5) 47-33 in December and appeared on its way to another relatively comfortable win before becoming a bit unglued in the final period. The slide actually began at the end of the third when Holton turned it over on its final two possessions.
Three straight turnovers to start the fourth allowed Hayden to start chipping away, and five points from Bree Schmidt to start the period cut Holton’s lead to 31-26.
Hannah Sweet stemmed the early rally with a three-point play, but Holton followed with four straight turnovers as Hayden trimmed the deficit to 36-32 on a pair of Kirah Lohse free throws with 1:28 to go.
If Holton was rattled, however, it didn’t carry over to the free throw line. Connor Strader and Keri Tanking sank four straight to restore a six-point edge and Holton made 7 of 11 in the final 2:38.
Hayden got as close as three, 40-37, on a pair of Sarah Pimentel free throws with 6.1 seconds to play, but couldn’t get a possession with a chance to tie.
The Basehor tourney title was the fifth straight for Holton (11-1), which has won 11 straight since a season-opening loss to Wamego.
“It’s such a great environment for us to come play in,” Holliday said. “These are teams we don’t normally see with the exception of Hayden this year. Two years ago, we had three of the final-four teams at the state tournament here, so I know it gets us ready for state and tonight’s game was no different. If we want to get back to Salina, we have to learn how to play in this kind of environment.”
Lohse and Schmidt led all scorers with nine points each for Hayden (7-2), which has lost only to Holton this year. Holton had four players score seven each, including tourney MVP Kyrstie Miller.