The Rural Vista Heat made a second-consecutive trip to the Girls’ Class 1A D-1 State Basketball Tournament in Hays, squaring off with the Thunder Ridge Longhorns in an action-packed matchup that proved to be a thrilling nightcap to Thursday’s quarterfinal round festivities.
Early on, strong guardplay from the Longhorn backcourt tandem of sophomore Brennen Kirchhoff and junior Layne Pettijohn helped third-seeded Thunder Ridge out to a 16-8 by the end of the first quarter. It would be the largest lead either squad would enjoy for the rest of the game.
Sixth-seeded Rural Vista came storming out of the gates in the second quarter, quickly erasing the deficit with a 12-2 burst to go ahead 20-18 just over halfway through the period. Each team struggled taking care of the rock late in the half, with Thunder Ridge inching ahead at the break, 24-23.
After both squads traded blows in a back-and-forth third quarter, the Heat found themselves down 36-34. In the fourth quarter, Thunder Ridge edged back out to a six-point lead with less than two minutes to play before Rural Vista cranked up the defensive intensity, scoring back-to-back buckets off Longhorn turnovers to pull back within two with possession of the basketball with under a minute to play.
Following a defensive stop, Thunder Ridge pushed the ball up the floor against the Rural Vista press, finding lone Longhorn senior Kennedy Rietzke on the left block, who hit her basket of the ballgame in the game’s waning moments to seal a 48-44 victory.
Junior Mariah Stauffer led all scorers on the night, firing in 11 second-half points to finish with 13 on the contest for Thunder Ridge (22-2) while Kirchhoff and Pettijohn finished with 12 and ten points, respectively.
Rural Vista (18-5) received double-digit efforts from junior duo Jordyn Sanford with 13, and Lauren Campuzano with 12, along with sophomore Holly Brockmeier, who added 11. Sophomore Hannah Riedy chipped in with eight.
While the Heat ended their season in the first round of the 1A D-I tournament for a second-consecutive year, Rural Vista fans should have a lot to look forward to. The Heat had no seniors on this season’s roster.
Thunder Ridge advances to Friday’s semifinal round to take on the two seed, St. Paul, a 26-19 winner over seventh-seeded St. John.