By Rick Peterson

EMPORIA -- In terms of state experience, Wednesday's first-round Class 5A state tournament game between No. 4 seed St. Thomas Aquinas and No. 5 Highland Park was a mismatch.

AmeliaRamseyStateSophomore Amelia Ramsey led Highland Park with 12 points and seven rebounds in Wednesday's 66-22 Class 5A state tournament loss to St. Thomas Aquinas. [Photo by Selena Favela/Special to TSN]

SeOnaGowanBrittStateHighland Park's Se'Ona Gowan-Britt scored eight points with a pair of 3-pointers in Wednesday's Class 5A state tournament loss to St. Thomas Aquinas. [Photo by Selena Favela/Special to TSN]

Aquinas entered this week's state tournament looking for its seventh straight state championship while Highland Park was making its first state appearance since 2012.

And Scots coach Rob Brown felt like that edge in experience made a big difference, particularly early on, as the Saints got off to a dominating start of the way to a 66-22 win at White Auditorium.

"I think we were a little overwhelmed,'' Brown said. "That team's a good team. We came out trying to give them all the energy that they could get, all the positive attitude they could get but it was a tough game.

"That's the six-time defending state champion right there and what, 30 appearances in a row so we knew the task ahead was going to be a tough one. I thought we played a better game in the secon half, slowed it down a little bit better, but that was just a tough start.''

Highland Park ended its breakout season with a 19-4 record while Aquinas, 20-3, advanced to Friday's 2 p.m. semifinal to face St. James Academy, which knocked off top seed Seaman 65-42 in Wednesday's opening game.

Aquinas scored the first seven points of the game, and after a three-point play from Highland Park sophhomore star Amelia Ramsey, the Saints ran off the final 18 points of the opening quarter to take an insurmountable 25-3 advantage. 

By halftime the Saints had opened up a 40-10 cushion and outscored the Scots 26-12 in the second half to win going away.

Ramsey led Highland Park with 12 points and also grabbed seven rebounds while Se'Ona Gowan Britt added eight points and Keahahnae Rice the Scots other two points.

Alexandra Crouse led Aquinas with 17 points while Sydney Watts added 10 points, Jayma McPherson and Kelsey Schenck eight apiece and Catherine Goodwin seven.

Aquinas used its bench extensively, with all 12 Saints playing at least nine minutes and no Saints playing more than 20 minutes.

Aquinas forced 27 Highland Park turnovers while the Scots shot 30 percent from the field and were out-rebounded by a 33-25 margin. 

But with a roster of all underclassmen Brown said the future is bright for the Scots.

"I just told the girls in the locker room, 'We're going to be back next year with whoever we got on the roster,' '' Brown said. "We'll be back here next year. We've got to hold our head up high.''

Aquinas will face Eastern Kansas League rival St. James Academy for the third time in Friday's semifinal. The Saints have won the first two games with the Thunder. 


Highland Park  3 7 7 5 -- 22

Aquinas            25 15 12 14 -- 66

Highland Park (19-4) -- A. Gowan-Britt 0-2 0-0 0, Broils 0-5 0-0 0, White 0-2 0-4 0, S. Gowan-Britt 3-9 0-0 8, Ramsey 5-8 1-1 12, Hernandez 0-0 0-0 0, Parker 0-1 0-0 0, Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Rice 1-2 0-0 2, Heironimus 0-0 0-0 0, Atkins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 9-30 1-5 22.

St. Thomas Aquinas (20-3) -- Goodwin 3-7 0-0 7, Crouse 7-11 2-2 17, Watts 5-9 0-1 10, McPherson 3-6 1-2 8, Schenck 3-6 2-2 8, Macrorie 1-4 0-0 2, Welsh 0-2 0-0 0, Eischen 0-4 0-0 0, Garretson 1-1 0-0 3, Liby 3-6 1-1 9, Sparks 1-5 0-0 2, Young 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-61 6-8 66.

3-point shots -- Highland Park 3-12 (S. Gowan-Britt 2-6, Ramsey 1-2, A. Gowan-Britt 0-1, Broils 0-1, White 0-1, Parker 0-1), St. Thomas Aquinas 6-17 (Liby 2-4, Goodwin 1-2, Crouse 1-3, McPherson 1-3, Garreton 1-1, Welsh 0-2, Watts 0-1, Macrorie 0-1). Total fouls -- Highland Park 9, St. Thomas Aquinas 6. Fouled out -- none. Technical fouls -- none.