Caldwell girls stun No. 2 ranked Cunningham – heads to State

Caldwell pulls off one of the biggest upsets of the night across Kansas by knocking off Cunningham.

by James Jordan, Sumner Newscow — One knew that Caldwell was going to own this sub-state in Attica, when the Lady Bluejays would shock No. 2 ranked Cunningham for a sub-state championship.

Both Caldwell teams are going to the Class 1A Div. II state tournament in Dodge City after winning in the finals of the substate tournament in Attica Saturday. The girls pulled off a huge upset knocking off a team from Cunningham that had lost only one game all year, winning 43-41.

Caldwell used a new defense and dominated the third quarter. The Lady Bluejays built an 11-point lead and then held off two strong counter punches from Cunningham down the stretch. Hannah Steuwe grabbed a rebound in the final seconds as Caldwell was clinging to a two point lead. She missed the front end of a one and one with two seconds left, but it was the rebound that ended the threat.

With all the theatrics at the end, the biggest play of the night still may have been at the end of the first half.

Tylyn Ward picks up a key basket against Caldwell.

With just a couple of seconds left, Caldwell’s Suzann Hager missed the first of a one and one free throw, and managed to get her own rebound. She put in a layup as time was expiring and Caldwell went into halftime with a four-point lead.

That gave the Lady Bluejays momentum, and they came out on fire in the third quarter. Caldwell started the second half with a 9-2 run that saw the lead swell to 11.

With 40 seconds left in the first half the score was tied at 22 and Cunningham had the ball, and was intending to work for a final shot. Instead Caldwell managed a couple of steals and got to the free throw line. Kassidy Bruey hit two foul shots to start that stretch.

Cunningham coach Eric Meyers said his team was working for the final shot as the half ended.

“I didn’t care if we even got a shot off really. I thought at halftime those four points we gave them would be hard to make up. It turned out that way,” he said.

Caldwell Cory Ward said the end of the first half “was huge,” and it did set the stage for how well they played in the third quarter.

It was Hager’s only points of the game.

The game was close throughout for the most part. Cunningham got a 3-pointer from Kylee Ricke at the end of the first quarter and the Lady Wildcats led 12-9.

The teams battled back and forth until they were tied at 22 with 40 seconds left in the half.

Caldwell’s Steuwe and Cunningham’s Mikaela Meyers both had three fouls in the first half and had to sit for awhile.

Steuwe scored four in the third quarter run. Megg Lebeda converted a three-point play and Kassidy Bruey hit a 3-pointer and Caldwell led by 11 halfway throuth the third quarter.

Meyers converted a three-point play, and hit another shot later in the quarter as Cunningham started a comeback.  Ricke hit two free throws as the third quarter ended and the lead was cut to six. Meyer hit three foul shots early in the fourth, and with five minutes left the deficit was down to three for the Lady Wildcats.

Lauren Murphy hit two field goals, and Hollace DeWeese hit four consecutive foul shots as Cunningham completed a 14-4 run and tied the game at 41 with a minute and a half left.

Both teams had turnovers as the defensive intensity increased on both sides.

Steuwe hit two foul shots with 36 seconds left to put Caldwell ahead 43-41.

The Lady Bluejays missed a foul shot opportunity with 16 seconds left, and Cunningham had one more shot. They missed a shot and Steuwe grabbed the rebound.

“This is a dream come true, since ninth grade. I have wanted to go to state,” Steuwe said after the game. Caldwell has been to the state tournament several times, but not in her time as a starter. She is one of two seniors on the team.

Coach Ward said he was very proud of this team that took a lot of losses early on as they played a strong schedule.  It is a very young team, with just two seniors and no juniors.

“With a lot of freshmen sometimes you don’t expect things,” Ward said. “But this group worked hard and they are special.”

Ward said he installed a triangle and two defense that they only practiced once, and the team executed it very well. Cunningham adjusted though and came storming back. There were several adjustments as Cunningham put together strong rallies.

Coach Meyers said his team was not overlooking Caldwell, and he credited the Lady Bluejays with playing a great game.

“Nothing comes easy at this time of year. I think if we played them 10 games we would win seven times,” Meyer said.

He was pleased with the way his team didn’t give up when they got down by 11 in the third quarter.

He is hopeful for next season with most of the team returning.

Cunningham also has two seniors and will have a lot of players coming back next year.

“A lot will depend on how our posts develop. We have some good players coming up and we will be ok with the guards,” he said.

Steuwe led Caldwell with 12 points. Megg Lebeda scored 10, Kassidy Bruey has nine, Tylyn Ward had seven, Katie Schmidt had three and Suzann Hagar had two.

Mikaela Meyers led Cunningham with 14, Kylee Ricke had 12, Lauren Murphy scored 11 and Hollace DeWeese had four.

Cunningham hit 11 of 15 foul shots and Caldwell hit 14 of 20.

Cunningham ends its season with an 18-2 record.

For the Caldwell photo gallery click here.

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