Monday, 16 July 2018
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Royal Valley Girls Finish Storybook Season Second at State
By Justin Fluke
Copyright: MSC Sports

Some might say the Royal Valley girls cinderella story and unexpected upset run ended eight minutes too soon.  However, what the Lady Panther basketball program accomplished and provided for their school and community in the final two weeks of the season, was probably more than anyone could have bargained for and will be looked back upon as one of the greatest post-season stories that rewrote the record books at Royal Valley High. 

Indeed, the Panthers were outscored 23-6 in the final quarter of the 3A State Championship game on Saturday, resulting in a 49-39 defeat to #1 seed, Garden Plain.  However after knocking off the top two seeds in Sub State and then defeating the number one and two ranked teams in the state the previous two days, and avenging a pair of double-digit losses,  #7 seeded Royal Valley had already accomplished much more than any team in school history, and beyond what anyone outside the Panther program thought possible while sending shock waves across the State from the Hutchinson Sports Arena. 

Under first-year Head Coach, Kyle Porter, Royal Valley secured the first winning hoop campaign since 2011, made their fourth trip to state and first appearance since 2005, and then won not only the first state tournament game in Panther basketball history, but also advancing to the championship and taking a seven-point lead into the final quarter before running out of gas.  They were the talk of the town and played just as composed and confident as their first year head coach, even without assistant Mara Winter present, since she was getting married during the title game.  Winter had a wedding scheduled long before she was added as a third coach to the program in December, after the season had started.     

The success of Saturday was sparked by junior, Mary Broxterman, who had a career night with 22 points, and a three-pointer by Marlissa Jordan that gave the Panthers a 20-16 halftime lead and another triple to end the third quarter that extended Royal Valley’s largest lead of the game to 33-26.  Jordan finished with nine points and Broxterman had 48 in the three state games in three days.  However, the team that had won four consecutive games by three points or less (including two overtime games) simply ran out of gas with Kiikto Thomas fouling out and senior star sister Tamo Thomas gutting through an ankle injury while being held scoreless in the championship tilt.  Tamo had 37 total points in the first two state contests, including nine trifecta's, but was 0-6 behind the half moon on Saturday. 

Six of the Panthers 16 turnovers came in the fourth quarter and a couple baskets by Taylor Joplin ignited a 13-0 run for Garden Plain before the Owls protected and extended their lead by making 14 of 16 free throws in the final six minutes and 20-23 charity tosses for the game to win their fourth state title in school history and first since 2002.  Joplin scored 15 of her 21 points in the fourth frame, including 9-10 at the stripe while fellow senior Piper Bourne was 7-9 at the line and added 15 points to help Garden Plain complete a 23-1 season.  Joplin finished the Tournament with 56 points.  The Owls were a mere 1-10 from three-point-land in the first half and after leading 13-9 at the end of one period, managed only three points the second stanza against a pesky and pressuring Panther defense.  Royal Valley was again out-rebounded 25-19 and shot only four free throws, while going 3-13 from outside the arc in a game that featured only two ties and four lead changes. 

No doubt, Royal Valley made their coaches, school and community very proud, while representing the Big 7 League and laying the foundation for a program, as well as providing a classic and motivating example of how anything is possible in March Madness.  The Panthers finish the year 17-8 and say farewell to five seniors in: Tamo Thomas, Marlissa Jordan, Bella Thompson, Danielle Stithem and Paige Odgen.   

©2018 MSC Sports
Hiawatha, KS 66434
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