GRAHAM, Mo. — The Nodaway-Holt Trojans are in the midst of the most successful season that the school has enjoyed in the last six years. But their postseason journey ended on Wednesday night with a 63-33 loss to the district’s top seed — Stanberry. 

The Trojans finish the district tournament with a 14-8 season record under first-year coach Shawn Emerson. That mark is an eight-game improvement already from last season’s 6-16 mark and the best winning percentage they’ve had since Megan Rosenbohm roamed the halls in Graham before her college career at Southwest Baptist and now her professional career in Europe. 

Although the postseason is over for the Trojans, they're not done playing this year and will likely improve to 15-8 when they play a make-up game on the road against Union Star. Emerson is happy with his team’s growth. The Trojans will graduate two senior starters, but leaned heavily on their sophomore and freshman classes. 

“This group is going to be a fun one to watch grow because there is still a lot of growth (potential),” Emerson said. “I’ve always been a proponent of summer, you don’t get much better during the season — we did because of where we were at. But you get better at dribbling and attacking the press during the summer. You get better at shooting and expanding your game during the summer. That is what these girls are going to have to do if they want to take it to the next level.”

The Trojans experienced a bump in the road to improvement on Wednesday when they ran into Stanberry (23-3). After Trojan sophomore Shaina Culp opened the scoring, the Bulldogs quickly went on an 8-0 run. 

Nodaway-Holt senior Breanna Day hit a three to cut the lead to 8-5 and then Emma Bohannon and Amanda Bohannon each had baskets to keep the Trojans within striking distance at 14-9. But the Trojans couldn’t keep pace with the Bulldogs’ three-point shooting, Stanberry hit three first-quarter threes and built a 25-11 lead heading into the second quarter.

“We knew coming in that they are athletic, quick and push the ball in transition,” Emerson said. “We knew the press was going to affect us. We are proud of where we’ve come with handling the ball, but we still struggle breaking the press.”

Culp had back-to-back buckets to open the second and briefly pulled her team back within 10. Stanberry ended the half with another big run to take a 38-19 lead at intermission. 

“I felt if we got in a half-court set, we could look to get the ball inside and we did — Shaina had eight in the first half,” Emerson said. “We kind of got into a track meet and when you are against a team that is athletic, that is what they want.”

Culp finished as the only Trojan in double figures with 10 points while Amanda Bohannon had nine, Kailey Miller had six, Day had five, Emma Bohannon had four and Kloe Jenkins had two.

Despite the game being decided, Emerson was proud of the effort his team put forth in the second half against a deeper, more experienced Stanberry team. He specifically pointed to freshman Jenkins. 

“(Jenkins) is just high-motor,” Emerson said. “Being a freshman, sometimes it isn’t always pretty, but she is going to make up for it with her work ethic, getting on the floor for loose balls and hustling for rebounds. … There is just a lot of fight in these girls.”

This week will wrap up the Trojan careers for seniors Miller, Amanda Bohannon and Day.

“They are fun to coach,” Emerson said. “They are a fun group and we are going to miss their leadership and experience.”

Stanberry advances to the district championship game on Friday night where they will face second-seeded Jefferson. The Eagle beat North Nodaway 40-31 on Wednesday to earn their place in the title game.