MANHATTAN — One thing the St. Mary's Colgan girls couldn't afford to do was give top-seed and unbeaten Spearville a huge head start.
After struggling through the first nine minutes of Wednesday's Class 2A state tournament opener, the Panthers managed to make things interesting but never completely recovered in a 55-41 loss to the Lancers at Bramlage Coliseum.
The victory moves Spearville (24-0) into Friday's 6:30 p.m. semifinal where it will face the winner of Wednesday's late game between Valley Heights and Wabaunsee. Colgan ends its season at 14-10.
"It was a rough start," said Colgan coach Abby Farabi. "We have a very young team with only one player who has been (to state) before.
"Once we settled down, I was really proud of the way the kids fought."
A 14-0 Spearville run had the Lancers up 23-5 early in the second quarter.
"We came out and played the way we've been playing all year long," Spearville coach Andrew Kempke said. "Then we gave a little momentum back and Pittsburg Colgan got rolling."
The Panthers did get things rolling, putting together a 14-2 run of their own before halftime. Colgan was down 25-19 at that point and had the ball with a chance to get closer.
The six-point deficit proved to be as close as the Panthers could get. They trailed by eight at halftime, got within seven (34-27) after a Kaitlin Crossland basket late in the third, but were never closer than 10 in the final period.
"Our kids just relaxed and played basketball after that start," Farabi said. "Our point guard did an excellent job of finding us open looks.
"Spearville had a lot of size on us and (Ehlaina Hartman) is a player. They are undefeated and know how to win down the stretch."
"We responded and we were able to keep them at arm's length in the second half," Kempke said. "But we also couldn't put a run together and put them away until the last three or four minutes."
Hartman, a 6-foot senior, had 25 points and nine rebounds for the Lancers, who also got 13 points from junior Alissa Heskamp.
The Panthers, who did not have a senior on the roster, were led by Crossland's 16 points. Lauren Torrance added nine and Lauren Yaghmour had eight.
"We've got no seniors and we will return everybody," Farabi said. "I told them this should hurt a little bit, but it should also make them hungry for next year."