Lady Pioneers basketball pulls off upset, wins substate title
Moments after the final whistle screeched, the tears rained down like April showers and they didn't stop.
"It feels unreal," Leavenworth's Rashayla Mathis said between gasps for air. "It feels so good to have all the hard work pay off."
In the middle of the Topeka Seaman High School gymnasium, the Lady Pioneer senior stood within a sea of fans, friends and family.
All around her cheers, tears and laughter spread like wildfire, but for Mathis, one notion overwhelmed everything else.
"We just did it as a team from beginning to end," she said. "We did it as a family."
On Friday, the Leavenworth girls' basketball team upset top-seeded Topeka Seaman 60-54 for to claim a substate championship.
With the win, the Lady Pioneers earned a bid in next week's Class 5A state tournament.
"Defense," LV coach Derek Zeck said. "From the start, the girls put so much energy in their defense and it showed. We strived to do that all year and tonight, we won because of that defense."
The game was the ultimate grudge match. Seaman, 17-3, struggled with the Lady Pioneers' inside presence.
Yet, the home team's quality guard play balanced out the difference in the first two quarters, so at half, LV held a slim 25-23 advantage.
Midway through the third, though, the Leavenworth fortifications began to wear down its host.
The Lady Pioneers then attacked the tired Lady Vikings with conviction.
That led to Seaman foul trouble, easier baskets for the visitors and eventually a 10-point advantage with four minutes left in regulation.
In the final two minutes, the home team made a last-ditch run, cutting the lead to four.
Nevertheless, Leavenworth made clutch free throws when it was needed to ice away the win.
"We were in this exact position earlier this season and we let the game get away," Zeck said. "This win shows the development and growth this team has made."
The Lady Pioneers, 14-8, will begin play at the Class 5A state championship tournament beginning on Wednesday.
Game times, seeds and opponents will be announced later today.