ALINA — Wamego’s Lakyn Rowden has a knack for finding open shots.
Whether it’s spotting up for a 3-pointer or setting up just outside the paint for an easy jumper, the senior has been one of the Red Raiders’ more reliable contributors this year.
Of course, it helps that Kaylee and Lanie Page command a good chunk of defensive attention. But when the double teams come, Rowden usually finds the open part of the floor and stays ready to knock down the shot if the pass comes her way.
Rowden scored 12 points, 10 in the first half, to help propel Wamego into Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game against McPherson with a 63-46 win over Fort Scott.
“Lakyn’s one of those kids that along with Rikki (Alderson) and my two,” Wamego head coach Jim Page said, “I’ve coached them since they were 7 or 8 years old, so they understand the game and all four of them are like coaches on the floor and understand what I want. (Rowden) did that at sub-state — she found the open spot and was able to get us easy buckets when we needed easy buckets, so that’s been huge.”
In a game that was never particularly close, Wamego (24-1) got a 19-point effort from Kaylee Page, with Lanie Page and Alderson each scoring nine points.
Leading the way for Fort Scott (18-6) was Ashley Cook with 13 points, including three 3s, with Sidney Maycumber and Katren Rienbolt also in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Red Raiders took a 17-3 lead after the first quarter and maintained their big lead most of the game. Fort Scott was able to recover and play Wamego even the rest of the way, but never cut the deficit to single digits or threatened to rally.
Jim Page said getting a fast start was key after his team missed its first 10 shots against Pratt on Thursday.
“As much as our jitters were bad (Thursday), I think we got those worked out and got things a little bit smoother,” he said. “Again, being the first time at the state tournament in a long time, I don’t care what else you play in, this is very different. Kids are kids.”
Wamego’s defense was especially good against the Tigers, with Fort Scott struggling against the Red Raiders’ ball pressure and physicality. Fort Scott finished the game with 15 turnovers and had its shots blocked 11 times by Wamego players. Foul trouble also hurt Fort Scott, with the Tigers’ post players struggling to stay on the floor.
All in all, Fort Scott was never quite able to get in sync and play well in the halfcourt. Its best game was to drive hard to the basket and try and convert the ensuing free throws. The Tigers finished the game 19 of 27 from the charity stripe.
Jim Page said he was particularly pleased with the total team effort he got on Friday.
“Rikki Alderson stepped up, Allison Seufert stepped up, Lakyn Rowden stepped up,” he said. “Those kids hit some shots, and it’s a five-person game. People talk a lot about Kaylee and Lanie, but you have to have at least five kids to play.”
Wamego’s big lead throughout the game enabled Jim Page to rotate his players more and make sure they stayed rested for Saturday’s championship.
“I think at this point of the season, every minute you can get them off the floor counts, and a couple times calling timeouts after free throws and things like that,” he said. “Kids do recover awful fast, but at this time of year, it is important to get that little bit of extra rest.”
The Red Raiders shot 44 percent in the game, including a 35 percent clip from 3. Fort Scott, on the other hand, shot 29 percent.
The lead for Wamego could have been bigger had the Red Raiders knocked down their free throws. They finished the game 10 of 17 from the line.
Against McPherson in the title game, Jim Page knows his girls will have to bring their best game.
“We just want to come out and play,” Page said of the championship game. “Even though we’re the one seed, McPherson has to be the favorite. They’re the defending state champs and everything. This is our first year in 21 years, and they’re in the championship game for the second year in a row. I see us as the underdogs.”