MOUNDRIDGE — For the Moundridge girls, it’s all about defense.
The Wildcats have parlayed their suffocating defense into a 21-2 record and berth in the Class 2A State Tournament at Manhattan’s Bramlage Coliseum.
Moundridge begins state play at 8:15 p.m. Thursday against Chase County, which is 19-4.
The Wildcats set the defensive tone early with a 51-14 season-opening victory over Little River and haven’t relented since. In the sub-state championship game against South Central, the Wildcats gave up just 24 points.
Their only losses are to Lyons and Central Plains—Lyons, a team that lost in the Class 3A sub-state finals last week to defending champ Hesston and Central Plains, which is the No. 1 seed at Bramlage this week. Moundridge actually led that game by 17 points in the fourth quarter before the Oilers roared back for a stunning two-point victory.
There’s only been a smattering of games where the Wildcats have permitted just 40 points. While not overly big, they are extremely quick.
MHS coach Vicky Kessler believes 2A is loaded with quality teams, starting with the opener against Chase County.
“Chase County is a well-coached, disciplined team,” Kessler said. “They have some great outside shooters that aren’t afraid to put the shot up. They also have a strong inside game. We will have to play hard and defend well.”
Should the Wildcats win, they’d be on the court at 6:30 p.m. Friday against the winner of Valley Falls (21-2) and Hill City (19-4). Then, of course, whomever reaches the finals figures to go up against Central Plains (22-1), though the Oilers might get a push from Pittsburg Colgan (20-2) or Meade (19-3) in the semifinals.
“2A is packed with competition this year,” Kessler said. “There are several really good teams that didn’t make the tournament. We are fortunate to get this opportunity and are glad to represent Moundridge.”
This was supposed to be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the Wildcats after losing their final remnants to the 2011 state championship team, MacKenzie Suderman and Brooke Holloway.
“After losing the two leading scorers and rebounders, this team was under construction early,” Kessler said. “They quickly found their stride and new identity. They were able to finish 9-0 in a strong Heart of America League. Their work ethic and dedication to the program have allowed them to become one of the Top 8 teams in Class 2A this year.”
Ashley Holler, a 5-5 junior, leads the Wildcats with a 16-point average. Michelle Schrag, a 5-8 senior, chips in with 10. Other starters are 5-7 senior Cassidy Siemens (6.0), 5-6 senior Anna Stucky (5.0) and 5-5 junior Peri Lange (5.0). While not tall, the team is breathtakingly quick and its defense sometimes is its best offense due to points off turnovers.
Off the bench early are 5-9 freshman Bethany Stucky, 5-8 senior Michelle Morrison and 5-7 sophomore Natalie Kaufman.