Emporia High appeared to have Washburn Rural right where it wanted.
The Spartan girls entered the fourth with a three-point lead, but the advantage quickly evaporated as Washburn Rural scored nine straight to open the fourth in what became a 38-28 victory for the Blues.
EHS went without a field goal for little more than eight minutes bridging the final two periods, enough to allow the visitors just enough traction.
“(We) battled tonight,” EHS Head Coach Carolyn Dorsey said. “I’m not happy we lost, I’m not happy we lost Thursday. But I’m so incredibly proud of them because they’ve earned respect back. I think they’re playing their tails off, I think they’re tough — and I wouldn’t have said that earlier this year.
The biggest thing is teams are now preparing for us in a different way, knowing that this is a battle. Going that stretch without a field goal hurt (us). We couldn’t get anything at the basket.”
The game was tied at the end of each of the first two quarters, though the Spartans held leads in each period.
In the third, the Spartans led by as many as five, with a 3-pointer by Allie Baker giving them a 23-18 cushion.
The Blues got a steal and layup by freshman Brooklyn DeLeye and another shot to fall by senior Kasey Hamilton and cut it to one point.
Gracie Gilpin made two free throws with five seconds to go, giving E-High a 3-point lead entering the fourth.
The fourth was where things dried considerably for the Spartans. An open 3-point look from Campbell Bagshaw gave Rural its final lead. DeLeye, who had been largely quiet to that point, followed with a steal and layup and then a buried an open 3-point look on the Blues’ next time up the floor.
“She will be a really good player,” Dorsey said of DeLeye. “I thought we did a good job on her. I thought we minimized (her). Our girls buckled up and defended pretty well. They executed defensively right where we needed them to.”
Baker broke the schnide with a 3-pointer at the 3:25 mark to cut the Spartan deficit to four, but the Blues converted seven free throws down the stretch, while EHS couldn’t get any more shots to fall.
Baker had a team-best nine, on three 3-point buckets.
“She’s earned my respect immensely,” Dorsey said. “She is face-guarding one of the best point guards in our league. She’s in her shorts, bothering her, staying with her and was able to hit shots down the stretch. She’s tough. She wasn’t playing particularly well for us early, but Allie has really, really grown and stepped up this season and I think she’s just going to continue to make steps (forward).”
EHS will next play at Topeka West on Friday.
WRHS 8 9 5 17 — 39
EHS 8 9 8 3 — 28
Washburn Rural: C. Bagshaw 3, Lutz 5, Krueger 5, Hartig 1, R. Bagshaw 6, Hamilton 11, DeLeye 8.
Emporia: Gilpin 2, Christensen 1, Adams 5, Baker 9, Breshears 6, Tovar 5.