By Todd Fertig

HUTCHINSON -- A four-year uphill climb ended at the pinnacle for the Silver Lake seniors.

SilverLakegirlsStateTrophy 1Senior Makenzie McDaniel hoists the championship trophy as she celebrates the Class 3A girls title with her teammates after Saturday's 66-61 win over Hesston. [Photo by Todd Fertig/TSN]

SilverLakegirlsstateTeam 1Silver Lake poses for a team picture after capping a perfect 26-0 season with Saturday's 66-61 win over Hesston in the Class 3A state title game. [Photo by Todd Fertig/TSN]

After coming up short three times in their quest for a state championship, the Eagles won the Class 3A girls title by defeating Hesston 66-61 at the Hutchinson Sports Arena Saturday night.

The group of five Silver Lake seniors were part of teams that finished third two years ago and fourth last season. The group had not played in a championship game until Saturday.

It was a brawl.

End-to-end action and physical play kept the outcome in question until the final seconds.

Silver Lake survived a five-point run in the final 30 seconds that pulled the Swathers to within one possession. But the Eagles were the ones holding the trophy when the buzzer sounded.

“The amount of work and dedication that our ladies put into the game of basketball, for these seniors to finish with a state championship is something special,” Silver Lake coach Kyle Porter said. “I’m just glad that we got the mission accomplished.”

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Silver Lake senior Makenzie McDaniel. “We’ve worked so hard to get to this. Coming short two years in a row really stings, so it was something we put in the backs of our heads to work for every day in practice. This has been our goal since Day 1, so it’s great to have been able to achieve it.”

The game was neck and neck for the first two periods which ended with Silver Lake holding a 32-31 advantage.

Hesston inched ahead 42-41 with three minutes remaining in the third period, but Silver Lake responded with a 9-2 run to finish the period ahead, 50-44. The Eagles never relinquished that lead, but the outcome remained in doubt until the end.

To reach the championship game, Hesston had to get by Goodland, the team that knocked Silver Lake out of the championship hunt the previous two seasons.

The Swathers’ furious attack was headed by guards Abby Proctor and Kendall Brueggen. Proctor scored 26 points. Brueggen scored 15 and grabbed 12 rebounds.

SilverLakegirlsStateTitleHuddle 1Silver Lake coach Kyle Porter talks to his team during Saturday's 66-61 win over Hesston in the Class 3A title game. [Photo by Todd Fertig/TSN]

“What a tough game,” Porter said. “Hesston has a great basketball team. They were incredibly physical on the inside. Their guard play defensively is phenomenal. They are just a great defensive team. Offensively, Proctor was tough. We worked hard to find an answer for her all night.”

“We knew they were going to give us a tough game,” Silver Lake senior McKinley Kruger said. “Kendall is a great player. (Proctor) really showed out, too. But we knew that if we just played our game, we would be fine. But a lot of respect for that Hesston team.”

KailynHanniStateTitle 1Sophomore Kailyn Hanni led Silver Lake with 26 points as the Eagles capped their 26-0 season with a 66-61 win over Hesston in the Class 3A state final Saturday night. [Photo by Todd Fertig/TSN]

Sophomore Kailyn Hanni led the Eagles with 26 points. She drew 10 fouls on Hesston defenders, which led to her hitting 14 of 15 free throws, including several in the final minutes.

McDaniel added 25 points and also grabbed 13 rebounds, eight on the offensive end.

Porter heaped praise on the Eagles’ five seniors – McDaniel and McKinley Kruger plus Kaibryn Kruger, Kaylee Deiter and Sarah Wehrli.

“They are the epitome of toughness,” the coach said of the seniors. “The pain of (the semifinal losses the past two years) and all the work that they put in, we really wanted to make this senior year special. They knew it was their last chance. To be able to get it done feels so good.”

Silver Lake finished the season 26-0, claiming the girls’ program’s seventh title and first since 2016.

McKinley Kruger said that the team felt supported throughout the journey by the Silver Lake community.

“As you can see by our big crowd, they support us. They’re our backbone,” Kruger said. “They want us to win just as much as we do. Being a part of the Silver Lake community really means a lot to me and the rest of the team.”

To get to the finals, Silver Lake had to defeat Haven and Hayden. McKinley Kruger noted that escaping the semifinal round was a huge weight off the team’s shoulders.

“It felt especially good getting over that hump yesterday because we faced a good Goodland team two years in a row that kept us from the championship,” the senior said. “But this was our year and we knew it from the start.”


Hesston          16 15 13 17 -- 61

Silver Lake     19 13 18 16 -- 66

Hesston (22-4) – Brueggen 6-15 2-4 15 , Proctor 10-16 3-4 26, Mason 2-7 2-2 6, Yoder 3-7 2-2 9, Magill 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 1-2 1-2 3, White 1-1 0-0 2, Phillips 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-48 10-14 61.

Silver Lake (26-0) – Deiter 1-5 0-0 2, McDaniel 10-22 5-9 25, Hanni 5-11 14-15 26, K. Kruger 1-3 0-0 3, M. Kruger 2-7 5-8 10, Wehrli 0-2 0-0 0, Bolan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-50 24-32 66.

3-point goals – Hesston 5 (Proctor 3, Brueggen 1, Yoder 1), Silver Lake 4 (Hanni 2, K. Kruger 1, M. Kruger 1). Total fouls – Hesston 24, Silver Lake 16. Fouled out – Mason. Technical fouls – Mason. 

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