By: Aaron Pyle
As the season approaches the midway point, the Girard Trojan boys’ and girls’ basketball teams competed in the annual Wilson County Classic held in Fredonia. This season marks the 16th season the Trojans have competed in the tournament. The Wilson County Classic featured area teams such as: Chetopa, Chanute Christian Academy, Fredonia and Neodesha.
For the Lady Trojans, on day one (Jan. 18), the team faced the Fredonia Yellowjackets (1-5) who won their first game of the season prior to the tournament 55-40 over Bluestem (3-3). Capturing a double-digit lead at halftime, the Lady Trojans were able to run away with the contest capturing a 59-35 victory in the first round of the Wilson County Classic.
Senior Makaila Ausemus highlighted the offense for Girard as she finished her night with 11 points in which six of those points came from the three. Olivia Cullen closed the contest in double digits as well as the junior ended her night with ten points. Sophomore Bailey Troike provided a key effort off the bench as she finished the game with nine points.
Following the win, the Trojans battled the Chetopa Hornets (2-6) Thursday, Jan. 21 in the second round of tournament play. In Chetopa’s first round matchup, the Hornets fell to Neodesha 57-41. In Thursday’s matchup, the Lady Trojans were able to run away with the contest early as Girard went on to prevail 71-20.
Emmaline Senecaut provided the effort offensively for the Lady Trojans as the sophomore finished the game with 18 points. Ausemus closed the contest just behind Senecaut in scoring as Makaila ended Thursday’s game with 17 points.
Looking to sweep the Wilson County Classic, the Lady Trojans stayed in Fredonia Friday, Jan. 22 for a matchup against the Neodesha Blue Streaks (5-1). For the Blue Streaks, much like Girard, the team has dominated the Wilson County Classic in the first two rounds by outscoring opponents 123-54.
Girard and Neodesha went back and forth throughout the first quarter as neither team was able to find an edge over the other. Both sides focused on getting their points from within the paint early in the matchup. Headed into the second, Neodesha led 12-10.
The Lady Trojans then picked up the pace early in the second quarter by going on an 8-0 credited to the bench play of Girard. Neodesha quickly responded back by going on a 4-0 run to stay within reach of the Lady Trojans. At halftime, Girard led Neodesha 24-21.
Seniors Makaila Ausemus and Brooklyn Tallie drew four fouls early in the second half which made the two key players sit as Coach Herlocker looked for other key players to step it up. That’s when the depth of Girard picked up the pace pushing the Lady Trojans to their largest lead of the contest, nine points, late in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Trojans caught fire offensively by outscoring the Lady Blue Streaks 20-10 to capture a 58-40 victory.
With the victory, the Lady Trojans captured their second consecutive Wilson County Classic title. Senior Faith Poland led all scorers with 22 points. Senior Jaada Valley and junior Kinley Smith closed the night with eight points, respectively.
Heading back to league play following the Wilson County Classic, the Lady Trojans (8-1) look to capture their eighth straight victory against Baxter Springs (4-5) Tuesday, Jan. 26. Girard will look to defeat a Lady Lions team coming off a 55-39 loss to Erie on Jan. 20. The Lady Trojans will also look repeat last season’s outcome in the first meeting between the two teams where Girard beat Baxter 47-33.
On the boys’ side for their first-round matchup, Jan. 18, the Trojans faced the winless Fredonia Yellowjackets (0-5). The lead grew to double digits in the opening minutes of the second quarter as Girard continued to pile on the score from there. Girard went on to win 59-23 over Fredonia.
Quinn O’Rand led Girard in scoring in Monday’s matchup as the junior closed the contest scoring 12 points for the Trojans. The brother pairing of senior Rigby Born and junior Brahm Born scored a combined 21 points for the Trojans as well.
In the second round, the Trojans were scheduled to play Chetopa like the girls’ team but due to COVID-19 exposures on the Hornets side, the game was canceled. Girard’s administration then quickly found an opponent to replace the lost game. Thursday, Jan. 21, the Trojans traveled to Pittsburg to face the Purple Dragons (3-5). The two teams last met in the 2017-18 season where the Trojans fell 66-51.
For the matchup against Pittsburg, the Trojans were able to outscore the Dragons 33-19 in the second and third quarter combined to hold a lead headed into the final quarter. The Dragons didn’t back down quite yet as Pittsburg’s offense picked up the pace in the final quarter. Purple Dragons senior Javon Grant helped push the game into overtime after scoring the last five points of the contest which included a game-tying buzzer beater. In overtime, Muia and B. Born help score 12 of Girard’s 17 points in overtime to capture the 74-65 victory over Pittsburg.
Muia highlighted the Trojans’ offense scoring a career-high 31 points. The Born brothers shined once again as well as Rigby finished with 13 points and Brahm finished with ten.
Girard then returned back to the Wilson County Classic Friday, Jan. 22 where the team battled Neodesha (1-4). The Blue Streaks have struggled this season losing their last four games. The last contest resulted in a 43-40 loss to Bluestem Tuesday, Jan. 12.
In the matchup against the Blue Streaks, both sides opened the game unable to get a rhythm offensively. After the slow start, the Trojans offense began to pick up the pace by going on a 12-0 run pushing the lead to double digits. Neodesha struggled to find their groove on offense against the red-hot Trojans. The Trojans were able to start the second quarter on an 8-0 run as well pushing the lead even further. At halftime, Girard led 39-19.
From there, the Trojans were able to maintain their double-digit lead for the entirety of the contest capturing a 77-53 victory over Neodesha. With the victory the Trojans claimed the 2021 Wilson County Classic title. Seniors Gabe Muia and Rigby Born led the way for Girard scoring 16 points, respectively. Brahm Born finished the game just behind the two as the junior ended the contest with 15 points.
Returning back to league play, the Trojans (7-3) will travel to Baxter Springs Tuesday, Jan. 26 to face the Lions (2-6) who lost to Southeast 58-46 in their prior matchup. Last season, the Trojans struggled against the Lions as in the first matchup between the two conference foes the Trojans fell 59-42.