MOUNDRIDGE — No team perhaps has a tougher gauntlet to negotiate for a state basketball championship than the Moundridge girls.
The Wildcats open Class 2A state play at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday in Manhattan against 23-0 Olpe. If successful, they would likely play 23-0 Valley Falls in the semifinals on Friday and potentially waiting in the wings on Saturday is defending champion Central Plains which, oh by the way, is 23-0.
“Three undefeated teams. For us to win it all, we may have to beat all three of them,” said Moundridge coach Brian Holloway, whose team is 20-3.
The Wildcats came up one game short of winning the title last year, losing of course to Central Plains in the finals. But they can’t even think about the Oilers without getting past Olpe, a perennial state power.
“Olpe is traditionally good. They are coached by a legend in Jesse Nelson,” Holloway said. “They are undefeated and very good.”
The Wildcats certainly will be one of the smaller teams in the tourney. 5-9 sophomore post Bethany Stucky is the only starter taller than 5-7, though she gets a lot done on the inside.
It’s more about the quick perimeter game for MHS, led by 5-7 senior Ashley Holler, who is a virtual cinch for first-team All-State honors. Peri Lange, a 5-5 senior, scored 14 points in the sub-state title game against Berean Academy to tie Holler for team honors and she’s the team’s top defensive player.
Rounding out the lineup are 5-4 junior Lexi Lorimor, who can fill it up from 3-point, and 5-7 junior Natalie Kaufman.
The Wildcats don’t have a long bench, but 5-5 sophomore Kassidy Kaufman can provide some 3-point shooting. Chelsey Knight, a 5-0 junior, is the other Wildcat who figures to see key minutes.
Valley Falls is expected to have no trouble with 14-9 Republic County on Wednesday. Ditto for Central Plains (which has 14-9 Colgan), but a great game matches 22-1 Meade against 21-2 Hill City in the 4-5 matchup, which generally is the most competitive game of the first round.
The Wildcats are seeking their first state championship since 2011, when they defeated Ell-Saline 48-34 in the championship game. They have won seven overall, the most in Class 2A girls history.