The Salina Central girls basketball team was able to hang with the #2 team in Class 6A in Liberal, for one quarter, before the Lady Redskins pulled away with an impressive dominating stretch, and coasting to a 61-40 victory to capture their third consecutive SIT title.
Both teams began strong on the defensive end, Lady Mustang sharp-shooter Aubrie Kierscht scored five points in the opening stanza, and Liberal held a 10-9 lead. That would wind up being the only quarter in the whole tournament where Liberal was seriously challenged.
The Lady Red defense was active and took Central out of what they wanted to do, and then in the final minutes of the first half, Liberal started to get hot on the offensive end, as they went into the half with a 30-19 advantage. To make matters worse, Central senior Kadyn Cobb suffered a leg injury and would not be able to play in the second half.
Liberal only added to the lead, with a 17-4 third quarter to leave no doubt the rest of the way.
Kierscht stepped up with 17 points to lead the Lady Mustangs, who dropped to 9-2 overall while Liberal is 12-0 and they have won 68 of their past 71 games going back more than two seasons.
The Mustang boys had a tough day, as they went up against the Buhler Crusaders in the fifth place game. Buhler came into the tournament ranked 4th in the most recent Class 4A KBCA poll.
Offense was tough to come by early, and Buhler behind the scoring and distribution of talented point guard Max Alexander, led 15-8 after the first quarter and 31-14 at the half.
The Mustangs played better in the second half on the offensive end, getting as close as 12 points, but Buhler was never threatened, and they would go on to win by a final of 58-41.
Nolan Puckett tallied his second consecutive double-figure scoring outing as he led Central with 10. Reed McHenry added nine for the Mustangs, who dropped to 4-7 overall while Buhler improved to 8-3.