The Parkway Central Colts have made history. Now, they are ready to make some more.
The Colts will play in the Class 5 girls state semifinal against the Jefferson City Jays at noon Friday (March 15) at Missouri State University’s JQH Arena.
This Parkway Central’s first trip to the Final Four.
Before this year, the Colts It will be Central’s lost in the quarterfinal round in 1999 and 2013.
“Everyone is extremely pumped,” Colts coach Brian Guilfoyle said. “The excitement around school is amazing. They are aware it’s our first trip to the Final Four. We talk about the program and trying to make it better each year.”
Parkway Central advanced to Springfield after scoring a 51-37 win over Jackson in the quarterfinal round at the Hyland Performance Arena on the campus of Lindenwood University.
The Colts, who are riding a 10-game winning streak, improved to 23-6. Jefferson City is 28-1. The Jays are ranked No. 1 in the state. Parkway Central is ranked No. 5.
There is no history between the two programs.
“With the use of scouting film I don’t think it matters,” Guilfoyle said. “Everyone is able to prepare the same way. It is obviously different when you meet up and play in person but both teams will come prepared.”
“They are a very talented team and ranked No.1 in Class 5 in the state,” Guilfoyle said. “Their only loss was to Incarnate Word Academy. They are very skilled at each position and have tremendous size. There starting lineup has three kids over 6-feet tall.”
Jefferson City sustained a 52-42 loss to Incarnate Word on Feb. 19. The Jays are 9-1 against teams from the St. Louis area this season.
Guilfoyle said his Colts are ready for the opportunity.
“I think we match up decently in size and we have played some of the toughest competition in the state,” Guilfoyle said. “The girls are battle tested and should be ready to take on the Jays. We should have confidence in the fact we are a very good team and can give anyone in the state a good game.”
The Colts will be ready. While they will be determined and focused, Guilfoyle noted there may be a few butterflies. That’s to be expected.
“I think you always have nervous energy going into games like this,” Guilfoyle said. “We want the girls to direct that energy into hustling, focusing, and giving it everything they have every play. It is only human to be nervous.”
Guilfoyle knows what he wants from his Colts in the semifinal.
“Play with confidence and take one possession at a time,” Guilfoyle said. “Be ready for their physicality and play Parkway Central basketball.”
The winner moves on to play in the state championship game at 8:10 p.m. Saturday against the winner of the other semifinal game that features Republic (22-8) playing North Kansas City (27-2). The two semifinal losers will meet in the third-place game at 12:50 p.m. Saturday.
The bus trip down Interstate 44 to Springfield should be a fun ride, Guilfoyle said.
“This is the first year we have traveled as a team to Springfield,” Guilfoyle said. “The kids should have a blast and enjoy the team bonding time. They earned it.”
For Guilfoyle as a coach, this will be his first time leading at team to state. But, he pointed out, this is about his team.
“I am excited for the kids. They have worked hard for four months to make this happen,” Guilfoyle said. “As a program we have improved each year and this is for all girls that once played at Parkway Central. For me it is a major goal that I set out for the team nine years ago when I took over a team that was 2-24 the year before.”
Guilfoyle believed in this team this season.
“We knew that we brought back lots of talent. It was a matter of playing harder competition and gaining experience,” Guilfoyle said. “The team set several goals and one of them was playing at state. So, I was not shocked by the outcome but it is rare to get through the tough competition we faced each game this year.
“Words cannot express how happy I am for them. They are all such good people on and off the court. Their leadership and positive attitude is a huge part of why we made it to state.”
The Colts had to overcome to tough challenges after winning the district.
Parkway Central had to come from behind to prevail 58-55 over Marquette in the sectional. The Colts trailed all but 38 seconds in the game before winning it at the end.
“We were down by as much as 14 in the game in the third quarter,” Guilfoyle said. “The kids did not give up and kept working hard to make good things happen. We always talk about how the score on the board is not important, it is the effort of the next play. I think they understand you cannot change the past but you can work hard for the future. This really showed how much grit and determination the kids have.”
The quarterfinal victory over showed Guilfoyle his girls could do what it takes to win a hard-fought game.
We played well in spurts and in the fourth quarter we finally started clicking as a team,” Guilfoyle said. “We need that type of effort every quarter for the rest of the season. Jackson was very well coached and worked hard as well. It was a great matchup that I will always remember.”
Guilfoyle wants the team and the staff to enjoy this moment.
“I am extremely proud of the girls and the assistant coaches,” Guilfoyle said. “It has been an amazing season and I feel blessed to coach such great kids.”