Aubrie Kierscht had never been on a Salina Central girls basketball team that won a Salina Invitational Tournament championship.
That changed on Saturday.
Central claimed its first SIT championship since 2017 with a 56-36 victory over Andover at Mabee Arena. It came one year after the Mustangs' hopes of winning it were dashed by Liberal's Rylie Hallman, who hit a game-winning basket at the buzzer in the championship game.
"Going into the season, we were just really excited," said Kierscht, who scored 21 points and was named the tournament's most valuable player. "We're always excited to play with each other. We have a big target on our back, but now for us, it's just continuing to get better.
"This is certainly a good step in the right direction, but there's still a lot more things that we want to accomplish."
Kierscht averaged 21 points in this year's tournament as the Mustangs — ranked No. 2 in Class 5A — improved to 11-0 with the championship. It was the second matchup against Andover, with Central also winning the first meeting on Jan. 7, 50-17.
Winning the SIT is always one of the Mustangs' goals. It was their fifth tournament title in program history.
"This is certainly something we want to do every year and to get this one, especially after the last couple of years of disappointment, was pretty important for us and special," Central coach Chris Fear said. "Not winning one would have been a shame.
"This group this year was not going to let that happen. We were pushed, no question about it, and that's good for us. I was really happy with how we responded. We're excited about this and certainly about the future."
Knowing they wouldn't get another shot at Liberal, which lost to Andover in the semifinals and went on to place third, didn't matter to the Mustangs.
"It was just going out there and doing something that we haven't done before," Kierscht said. "It didn't matter who we were going to play. We just came out ready to play like we do every other game."
Winning the Salina Invitational Tournament was just the first goal on Salina Central's list
With winning the SIT, the Mustangs now get a break after three games in three days.
They're next scheduled to play on Friday at home against Hays. Fear said they deserve a break.
"We need it," Fear said. "It'll be nice to relax her for a couple of days and then get three days of practice before we get back to it. We've got to get better."
The next goals on the Mustangs' list include winning the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League Division II championship, a sub-state title, and eventually the ultimate goal of claiming the program's first state championship.
But for now, they'll take what've they've accomplished so far.
"We don't want to look ahead," Fear said. "We just want to take each day and enjoy it."
Five Salinans named to the all-tournament team
Along with MVP Kierscht, Central was was well represented on the all-tournament team with Mykayla Cunningham, Hampton Williams and Chaliscia Samilton also honored.
"We have a really good basketball team," Fear said. "They play for one another. I was really pleased to see us with four on there. I think it shows the uniqueness of this team for sure."
South's Sydney Peterson joins the four Central players on the team. Rounding out this year's team were Andover's Brooke Walker and Alana Shetlar, Abilene's Jenna Hayes and Liberal's Ashley Carrillo and Keyona Hall.
South's Kylie Arnold was named the Most Inspirational Player.
Dylan Sherwood has been a sports reporter for the Salina Journal since August 2019. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @DSherwoodSJ
This article originally appeared on Salina Journal: How Salina Central girls won their first Salina Invitational since 2017