EMPORIA - Starting two juniors, two freshmen, and one sophomore; the Baxter Springs Lady Lions made it the Kansas Class 4A Division II tournament. This was the first time the Lady Lions earned an appearance since 2006. Even though they lost in the opening round against the Hugoton Eagles 51-35, it was still an impressive accomplishment.

The girls finished fourth in the CNC League, and lost nine season games. Galena, Columbus, and last years state champions Girard all tied for the league championship. Nonw advanced to Emporia to the state tournament.

As the Lady Lions Coach Corey White said of his young ladies: "The moment wasn’t too big for us. The girls grappled the whole way. They battled, and things just didn’t go our way. I’m so proud of their fight."

Before the tip-off, and throughout the game, Baxter's band director Louis Morgan had the place rocking with the Lion Pride Band. The numerous students who could make the trip shouted and cheered from the beginning to the end. Hugoton knew of the Lion pride Baxter Springs have.

Adjusting to the neutral court, both teams struggled in the opening period. Hugoton shot 13 percent from the field, and Baxter Springs 33 percent. The quarter ended 7-7. Sophomore Delaney Barnes scored all seven points for the Lady Lions with three field goals, and a free throw.

The Lady Eagles outscored the Lady Lions 17-10 in the second quarter. Junior Abbey Underhill put Baxter Springs up 8-7 at the start of the second with one of two free throws. Barnes scored a minute later, then again two minutes later for a lead of 15-13. Hugoton then went up 24-17, with Underhill scoring points for the Lady Lions. Freshman Allie Fry mad her only points of the game on free throws for Baxter Springs. The half score ended with the 24-17.

Both teams scored 10 points in the third. Barnes started the scoring with a free throw, and later a field goal. Underhill scored her fifth and final points of the game to bring Baxter Springs to 22. Before the end of the final frame Barnes added five more points. Hugoton led 34-27 to go into the final period.

Hugoton got hot and ran 12 straight points to up their lead 46-27. The Lady Lions has had a very short bench and the starting five have played the majority of minutes the previous 22 games. The Emporia college size court is also bigger then a high school’s. The Lady Lions seemed, rightly so, gassed. Barnes, Underhill, junior Kassity Shafer, and Fry played the entire 32 minutes. The only substitute was sophomore Madison Burton who split 16 minutes with freshman starter Brylee Rice.

Barnes scored all of Baxter Springs’ points in the fourth with a field goal, and four free throws. She lead both teams in scoring with 26. That’s 26 of the total of 35. Toss in four blocked shots, eight rebounds, and a steal; Barnes proved she is one of the best girl basketball players in Kansas.

Shafer didn’t figure into the scoring, but pulled eight defensive rebounds, and teo offensive boards. She also had two blocked shots, and two assists. Underhill had four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.

For all the stat geeks, Baxter Springs fared better in some things. The Lady Eagles attempted 59 shots, but only made 20 for 34 percent. The Lady Lions only tried 29 shots, but made 11 for 38 percent. The Lady Lions shot 62 percent at the charity stripe verses Hugoton's 54 percent. The difference that contributed to the final score was some important figures in a basketball game. Baxter Springs had 17 turnovers, Hugoton only eight. Baxter Springs had four steals, compared to their 11. Baxter Springs had seven offensive rebounds, Hugoton 24. Baxter Springs had 24 total rebounds, compared to 38.

The Lady Lions finished the season 13-10. With all of the starting five available to return next season, freshmen with junior varsity experience, state tournament experience, and high expectations, next year should be exciting.