Still, the season will be remembered for how it got there.
The Lady Longhorns led Southwest DeKalb by four points after three quarters in the first-round home game of the Class AAAA state tournament. The Lady Panthers, however, applied full-court pressure in the fourth, Kell couldn't adapt, and it had to settle for a 63-49 loss.
The Lady Longhorns (20-7) punched their ticket to the state playoffs last week with a victory over Hiram in the quarterfinals of the Region 5AAAA tournament. They then went on to shock then-No. 1 Douglas County in the semifinals to earn a home playoff game before falling to Osborne in the region title game.
"I couldn't be more proud of the girls (Friday)," Kell coach Craig Hines said. "Southwest DeKalb is a great basketball team, and we made them play their best to beat us."
Naomi Stuger led Kell with 16 points, and she was largely responsible for putting the Lady Longhorns in front in the second quarter. Caliya Robinson was also in double figures with 10 points. Nee Nee Marks, who entered Friday's game averaging 17 points on the season, was held scoreless despite getting several open looks.
With point guard Erin McKinney getting into early foul trouble and fouling out before the third quarter expired, Kell tinkered with its lineup, moving the 6-foot-2 Robinson from center to guard. With McKinney on the bench and Robinson now on the perimeter, Kell didn't respond as well to the pressure.
"We had so much problems with the pressure because Erin McKinney was out with foul trouble," Hines said. "We couldn't beat the pressure without her."
Southwest DeKalb (18-11) outscored Kell 25-7 in the fourth quarter, as a result of its full-court defensive pressure. The turnovers mounted for the Lady Longhorns and they rarely had an offensive possession on its own end of the floor. As a result, Southwest DeKalb scored 16 points in the first 3 minutes of the fourth quarter to take an eight-point lead.
The Lady Panthers began the fourth with six unanswered points to take a 44-42 lead. After Nikki Eggers hit a layup for Kell to tie the game, the Southwest DeKalb went back out on top to take a six-point lead.
Julianna Santrock kept Kell alive by hitting a layup to get within four, but the Lady Panthers went on an 8-0 run to put the game out of reach.
"We felt we needed to pick up the tempo," said Southwest DeKalb coach Kathy Walton, whose team will travel to Creekview in Tuesday's second-round game. "Kell was doing a great job with their half-court offense, so we wanted to turn it up and go full-court."
Kell played its best basketball in the second quarter, outscoring Southwest DeKalb 20-9. After trailing by nine at one point, the Lady Longhorns scored 11 unanswered points to jump in front, with Stuger accounting for eight of them. They maintained their lead throughout the third quarter before the Lady Panthers went to the full-court press.