By ISAAC DEER
HUTCHINSON – Silver Lake’s outstanding 2023 campaign ended on Saturday morning when the Eagles dropped the Class 3A third-place game to Phillipsburg in a 58-45 loss at the Hutchison Sports Arena.
With the loss to Phillipsburg (24-1), the Eagles finished their season with a 23-3 record. Their three losses were all to teams (Riley County, Goodland and Phillipsburg) that were in the 3A state tournament.
In Silver Lake’s 23 wins, 21 contests were won by double-digits. In the last three years Silver Lake made the 3A state tournament, the Eagles have had a combined record of 47-5.
Silver Lake coach Kyle Porter’s teams have created a powerhouse and are knocking on the doorstep of making history.
Porter is well-aware his team will have a great chance of being back in the mix of things next year.
The Eagles return several contributors, including three starters who have had their hand in the success. Juniors Makenzie McDaniel, McKinley Kruger and Kaibryn Kruger will return in the starting five next year.
The trio had a great all-around tournament. M. Kruger had a 20-point night in the opening round win against Santa Fe Trail, K. Kruger made a series of clutch shots in the postseason that elevated the Eagles to a higher level and McDaniel walked away from the Phillipsburg game with a 22-point, 14 rebound double-double.
Seniors Mariah Farmer, Taylor Ross and Juliya Seele played their final game for the Eagles on Saturday.
“With our players, anything less than a state championship seems like a disappointment,” Porter said. “But it hasn’t, and it has been a very rewarding season. The growth that each player has made throughout the year, the way they play together, and the way they care about each other is something special.”
Silver Lake was in the position to win the third-place game but had to battle from behind the entire contest.
Right from the jump, the Panthers pounced on the Eagles with a 10-2 run. The Eagles cut the deficit to 10-6 to end the first quarter.
Farmer and freshman Kailyn Hanni had the unpleasant task of trying to lock down a top-29 scorer in Kansas history. And the duo did an excellent job guarding Kansas State commit Taryn Sides in the first half, especially in the opening quarter.
“Phillipsburg is a phenomenal team,” Porter said. “Our number one goal was to limit Sides as much as possible, and I think we did that. I thought Mariah Farmer played unbelievable defense against her the whole game. We wanted her to take away the shot and everyone else to help on the drive. For the most part, we did that, with the exception of a couple of 3s in the second quarter that she hit.”
With Sides being locked down by Farmer, Phillipsburg’s 6-foot center Heather Schemper stepped up. Schemper dominated the opening quarter and finished with a 27-point, 11-rebound double-double.
“Schemper went to work today,” Porter said. “She was a tough guard. I thought if we limited Sides and made Schemper do the work, then we would be in a good spot.”
Although Sides was blanked in the first quarter, she started to heat up in the second quarter, but so did Silver Lake.
Sides had an eight-point second period which helped lead Phillipsburg to hold a 24-10 lead halfway through the quarter.
But then Silver Lake heated up after Porter took a timeout with 2:58 to go until halftime. Silver Lake closed the second quarter out with a 9-4 run, including a McDaniel buzzer-beater underneath the paint.
Although the Eagles trailed 28-19 at the half, Silver Lake had the momentum and got its groove back.
The Eagles played aggressively on defense at the start of the second half and slowed down a red-hot Phillipsburg offense
The Eagles outscored Phillipsburg on offense 15-10 in the third quarter and only trailed 38-34 going into the fourth; it’s smallest deficit in the contest.
Unfortunately for Silver Lake, Phillipsburg started to pull away in the fourth. The Panthers shot a stellar 72.7 percent (eight of 11), while Silver Lake couldn’t get a shot to fall, shooting 20 percent (two of 10) from the field.
“In life, there are times when you get knocked down bad, but you have to be able to get back up,” Porter said. “This is a good life experience for us and a rewarding season. I’m so proud of our kids, and I love each and every one of them.”
PHILLIPSBURG 58, SILVER LAKE 45.
Phillipsburg 10 18 10 20 – 58
Silver Lake 6 13 15 11 – 45
Phillipsburg (24-2) – Keeten 0-3 1-2 1, Gross 4-7 0-0 8, Sides 6-14 4-5 18, Jacobs 0-2 1-1 1, Schemper 12-22 3-5 27, VanDerVeen 0-0 0-0 1-1 1, Billings 0-0 0-0 0, Dierking 1-2 0-0 2. Totals – 23-50 10-14 58.
Silver Lake (23-3) – Farmer 3-8 1-2 7, McDaniel 10-21 2-4 22, K. Kruger 0-5 0-0 0, M. Kruger 3-11 2-3 10, Ross 0-1 1-2 1, Deiter 0-0 0-0 0, Hanni 2-5 1-3 5, Wehrli 0-0 0-0 0. Totals – 18-51 7-14 45.
3-point goals – Phillipsburg 2-6 (Sides 2), Silver Lake 2-13 (M Kruger 2). Total fouls – Phillipsburg 16, Silver Lake 15. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – none. Rebounds – Phillipsburg 29, Silver Lake 38. Offensive rebounds – Phillipsburg 6, Silver Lake 14. Turnovers – Phillipsburg 9, Silver Lake 15. Steals – Phillipsburg 9, Silver Lake 4. Blocks – Phillipsburg 1, Silver Lake 5. Assists – Phillipsburg 15, Silver Lake 12.