The Tigers (25-13) began play with a 25-10, 25-20 sweep of winless Prairie View (0-32). Paola (17-18) took the semifinal, 25-22, 25-27, 25-14 before going on to fall to third-seeded Louisburg in the finals, 25-17, 25-17.
"We had a great season," Fort Scott head coach Carol Bingesser said. "Our kids can't hang their heads. Our seniors stepped up and led."
The Tigers won 20 or more matches for the third consecutive season.
Paola went into the semifinal match off a 3-game victory over fifth-seeded Anderson County (15-20) by scores of 25-18, 21-25, 25-16. But the quick turnaround the Panthers made didn't seem to bother them any as they overcame an early 5-3 deficit in the first set.
There would be 12 ties in the set before the Panthers used a 5-1 run to go up 23-19. The Tigers rallied to get within 23-22 but two Paola kills finished the set.
"We knew they'd be tough and we knew that they played really good defense," We knew that for us to win, everything was going to have to click. It didn't really fall into place for us in the first game but it was kind of a chance for us to see what they do."
The largest lead of the second set was 4 points and that only happened once, when the Tigers strung together 4 straight points on a Mallory Shelton kill, a Jenna Campbell kill that hit just shy of the back line and two Paola errors. Those points put Fort Scott ahead 21-17.
But then Paola's Paige getz, a 5' 9" sophomore, rotated back into the line up. She doesn't play back row but when she played in the front, she was Shelton's equal and she threw down 3 straight kills to the the score at 21-21.
There would be four more ties before a Paola error gave Fort Scott the serve and a 26-25 lead. Shelton served an ace to tie the match.
"We learned from (the first set) and our passing improved," Bingesser said. "We dug up some balls and Mallory had some big hits from the back row. Megan had some tremendous hits from the left side."
But the Tigers seemed drained when they stepped back on the court for the third set and Paola took advantage to go out to an 8-2 lead.
Fort Scott scrambled to get back into the match. Campbell's kill started a 4-point run. Then McDermed picked up a kill off a Kori Allen set, Shelton knocked down a free ball at the net and followed up by blocking the Panthers to bring the Tigers within 12-10.
But a net serve gave the ball back to Paola and Getz came back in on the rotation. The Panthers increased the lead back to 19-12.
Shelton's block gave the Tigers serve and a Paola error cut the margin to 19-13. But Cheyenne Rankin, a junior, stepped up while Getz was out and picked up a pair of kills to start a match-ending 6-0 run.
"We dug ourselves a hole too deep. They got up on us and we were fighting like crazy to get back," Bingesser said. "We just couldn't get everything to go for us."
The final point was debated as the official closest to the play did not see a tip but a line judge on the opposite side of the court said he did, which prevented the Tigers from getting serve back.
"I would have felt better the way that ended if it had ended on a better note," Bingesser said. "I know we had ourselves a big hole dug but for the call to be made that was made -- one guy calling something, another guy calling something else -- let's replay it. Let's don't end a Sub-State on an 'I'm pretty sure' call. That was his answer, 'I'm pretty sure that's what it was.'"
Shelton had 14 kills in the match while McDermed had 8 and Campbell picked up 6. But the Tigers had just 7 kills in the third set.
Kenzie Heatherly recorded 19 assists while Shelton had 8 blocks and served 3 aces.
The Tigers jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first set against Prairie View -- which they had beaten three previous times this season.
"The girls were fired up and ready to go," Bingesser said. "We passed well. We covered the floor well. We picked up digs really. We served well."
The Buffaloes played tougher in the second set and held an 8-4 lead. But they couldn't keep up the pace and committed 4 consecutive errors to help the Tigers go up 9-8.
The Buffs took the lead one more time at 10-9 before Campbell tied the match with a kill that started a 3-0 run.
A McDermed block put the Tigers up 18-12. They were able to keep that 6-point margin until Prairie View got three in a row to get within 23-20.
But the Buffs served into the net for Fort Scott's 24th point and committed another error that closed out the match.
"The second game, they picked up their intensity to match ours," Bingesser said. "That was a pretty good match. Everything was working pretty well for us but we kind of gave them too a little bit much room to play with. I would have liked to have finished them off a little bit quicker than what we did."
Shelton led the Tigers with 7 kills and 6 blocks in this match. Heatherly had 12 assists and served 2 aces.
Louisburg will go on to the Class 4A State Tournament at Salina this weekend. The Wildcats (25-16) will be the No. 8 seed.
NOTES -- Labette County will represent the Southeast Kansas League at 4A State. Second-seeded LCHS defeated No. 1 seed Baxter Springs, 25-27, 25-23, 25-12, in the Chanute Sub-State final....
The Grizzlies (30-7) will be the No. 4 seed at State in Salina and play in a pool with Louisburg, top seed Lenexa St. James (39-1) and No. 5 Topeka Hayden (33-8). St. James is the defending champion, beating Hayden in 3 sets in last year's final to finish with a 40-4 record.
The opposite pool has No. 2 Abilene (36-3), No. 3 Cheney (33-4), No. 6 Maize South (30-12) and No. 7 Nickerson (26-15)....