Good Luck

May 26th, 2020

machiashotinlanejcMachia Mullens puts up a shot while being fouled Tuesday against Junction City. Mullens scored 23 points to lead the Lady Redskins to a 58-23 win, and Liberal advanced to the Sub-State championship Friday in The Big House. L&T photo/Earl WattBy EARL WATT

Leader & Times

The Lady Redskins  (21-0) won their fourth consecutive first-round playoff game Tuesday with a 54-23 win over Junction City and advanced to the Sub-State championship game Friday when Liberal hosts Manhattan (11-10).

Machia Mullens and Katie Horyna looked like the Div. I signees they are. Mullens led the Lady Redskins with 23 points, and Horyna had 20.

Mullens scored nine of her 23 in the first quarter despite a triangle-and-one defense from Junction City trying to slow down Mullens and Horyna.

Fouls mounted early for Junction City when they challenged Mullens in the lane, and Mullens completed back-to-back baskets while being fouled and made both free throws.

Mullens made three of four free throws in the first quarter to go along with three baskets. Audrey Gilmore hit a three, and Horyna added a pair of baskets for an early 16-7 lead.

Junction City was within five late in the first quarter at 12-7, but the Lady Redskins went on a 17-0 run that included six points from Mullens, five points from Horyna, four points from Reagan Watt and two points from Aubrey Warden, and Liberal had a 29-7 lead.

Liberal led 31-10 at half, and the third quarter was dominated by Mullens and Horyna who combined for all of Liberal’s 13 points in the period, and the Lady Redskins jumped out to a 44-18 lead.

Liberal continued to pull away in the fourth quarter including a free throw from Reece Hay, a pair of baskets from Watt, and a shot from Mullens that gave the Lady Redskins a 30-point lead and enacted the running clock.

Horyna dominated the final four minutes, knocking down a three, a two and a pair of free throws in the 58-23 win.

Mullens led with 23 points, Horyna had 20, and Watt scored eight.

The season came to an end for Junction City at 3-18, but coach Tim Testa believed the Lady Blue Jays are working to establish a successful program.

“They did a good job of fighting,” Testa said. “Liberal has a good team, good players and are well coached. We continue to fight, and that is a stepping stone for our program, fighting to the end.”

The Lady Blue Jays have seen progression through the season, even if the improvement has not resulted in wins.

“We have improved since the beginning of the season,” Testa said. “The last couple of games didn’t show it on the scoreboard, but our girls are going to class, we had no Fs in first semester, and we got better at basketball. Some of the little things of personal life discipline and being a good person translates into good basketball.”

The Lady Blue Jays made a two-day trip out of their journey from Junction City to Liberal.

“It was a great experience,” Testa said. “Liberal is a first-class organization out here at the high school. Thanks to our athletic director, we came to Dodge City last night. It was fun for the girls. They wished the score looked prettier, but it was a good last weekend for the program.”

The younger Lady Blue Jays are seeing some success, and Testa expected that success to work its way to the varsity level.

“We are losing three seniors,” he said. “One had a huge impact. Our freshmen won nine games this year. We have a good group of youngsters, and we should have five or six seniors next year. Junction City is a community where the military could bring big bad girls from overseas, but the girls we have will fight on for next year.”

The Lady Redskins will continue the current season with the Sub-State championship game Friday. Thanks to local sponsors, Liberal fans will be admitted free of charge prior to the 6 p.m. tip-off, and the Lady Redskins will try to win their third straight Sub-State championship after a physical opening to post-season.

“It was very physical,” Liberal coach Carter Kruger said. “I was proud how our kids responded. We played through a lot of bumps. College games can get like that, and we rose to the challenge. The kids played pretty well on the defensive end. We were rusty rebounding early, but it was good after the first quarter.”

Mullens and Horyna dominated despite the defensive focus on the pair.

“Their teammates deserve a lot of credit,” Kruger said. “They tried to take Machia and Katie away. Ashley drove and kicked, Audrey made a big shot. They couldn’t stay in the triangle and three, and then we were able to get into our flow.”

Kruger’s goal has been to take a short-term view, focusing on the game and the moment.

“We concentrate on second by second, possession by possession,” he said. “We have been through some battles. We try to focus on the little things. We understand it is about you playing as well as you can possibly play. We did a great job defensively doing that. Offensively we did enough. It was the first game against man-to-man in a month.”

That small focus could lead to big accomplishments according to Kruger.

“We have to focus on those little things,” he said. “How we need to defend, being physical and active on defense and on the glass. Offensively, we need to relax an make plays. We have been on an uptick offensively. We did a nice job of getting to the line, and finishing at the basket. When we do that, we can score with anybody. We need to play fearless, have fun and compete.”

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