TOPEKA — Wamego coach Jim Page was ready for his Red Raider girls’ team to show a mean streak.
In Saturday’s sub-state final at Hayden High School, that’s exactly what he got, as Wamego won 53-38 against Holton to move on to the Class 4A state tournament in Salina next week.
“We a lot of really nice kids on our team, they’re really nice kids,” Page said. “But the thing that I saw the past two games, is I saw them dig down a little bit and have a little bit of a mean streak. That was nice to see.”
Despite a neck-to-neck opening period for Wamego (22-1), Page said he was happy with the energy his team brought to the floor and its ability to fight for the win.
Leading the game in scoring was sophomore Lanie Page, finishing with a game-high 17 points. Her older sister, Kaylee, was not far behind with 14 points. Also in double-digit scoring was senior Lakyn Rowden with 13 points.
The first quarter couldn’t have been any closer as the teams finished the first eight minutes in a 15-15 tie. Wamego and Holton went back and forth in scoring with Holton’s Kyrstie Miller leading the game in scoring with seven first quarter points, followed closely by Wamego’s Kaylee Page with six first-period points.
But everything changed in the second quarter.
While the Red Raiders may have let the Wildcats’ senior Hannah Suarez open the second period with a layup, it was the only second-period field goal Holton would get. After back-to-back 3-pointers from Kaylee Page and Rowden, the Red Raiders went on a 15-3 run and went to halftime leading 30-18.
“The second period, it was kind of like a baseball pitch,” Jim Page said. “Sometimes you just have to throw some hot speed, and I just wanted to change up the pace because I liked what we were doing, but there was just something wrong. So we changed up the pace that second quarter and we got a lead and that lead helped us throughout the game.”
The second half opened much like the first half ended — with Wamego making shots, going on a 7-0 run. But Holton didn’t give up, and the Wildcats dominated the final five minutes of the third period with a 10-1 run to go into the final quarter trailing 43-31.
Though the run bridged the point deficit a bit for Holton, a solid fourth period from Wamego secured the Red Raiders’ win.
“I’m looking forward to the experience with the kids,” Jim Page said, “I’ve coached some of them since they were four and five years old, so we’re talking like 10 or 11 years. I’m happy for them and this experience”
Wamego will travel to Salina to compete in the state tournament, with its opening-round game on Thursday. After coaching many girls on his roster, including his two daughters, since kindergarten, Jim Page said it is an opportunity he is going to treasure.
“We’ve never been to state tournament, so I really don’t know what to think,” he said, “but we’re just going to continue to focus on getting better as a team and each player getting better because that’s kind of what we’ve done all year and the wins have taken care of themselves.”