TERRE HAUTE —
Defensive pressure turned the first semifinal game of the Class 4A girls high school basketball sectional Friday at Terre Haute South into a rout.
It helped turn the second game into a war.
The host Braves got some steals in the third quarter that got them on their way to a 71-49 victory over Plainfield, and they’ll meet four-time defending champion Mooresville at 7 p.m. today for the championship; the Pioneers outlasted Terre Haute North 52-44 in the second game.
South had turned around its game with the pesky Quakers with a 7-0 run midway through the second quarter, but led only 35-29 at halftime.
“We went into the locker room positive because we didn’t play our best and were still up by six,” coach Cara Stuckey said after the game. “I challenged some of our girls at halftime, and they didn’t hide … they turned up the defensive pressure, created some turnovers and that led to some easy baskets.”
Kylie Fendrick got the decisive run started with an assist to Lauren Hambrock for a layup, then stole the ball for a layup of her own. Emily Bell hit a 3-pointer, then Tasia Brewer stole the ball and passed it to Fendrick for another layup. Instead of being within six points, the Quakers were down by 15; they never recovered.
“Our goal was to get a quick start [in the third quarter] and not let [the Quakers] hang around and get confidence like they did the last time,” said Stuckey, whose team won 88-80 in overtime at Plainfield during the regular season.
Brewer was a problem for the Plainfield defense all night and wound up leading all scorers with 22 points while grabbing five rebounds, getting four steals and handing out four assists.
Hambrock added 16 points plus four assists of her own, Bell had 11 points and a team-high six rebounds, Labrea Joyner scored 10 and Fendrick had eight with four steals as the entire South starting lineup made major contributions.
Mackenzie Jeffries hit six 3-pointers and led Plainfield with 18 points while also hustling for seven rebounds. Senior reserve Betsy Gillenwater was the Quakers’ second-half bright spot and finished with eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Friday’s second game featured two teams very different in size but very similar in physicality. When the bigger Patriots could get the ball inside, they usually scored — but in the second quarter they struggled to do that.
“We knew if we could get the ball in the half-court we would put the ball in the basket,” coach Mike Allen of the Patriots explained afterward, “but our opponents know that also.”
North never trailed in the first quarter — getting all their points from 6-foot-2 Adrienne Pritchard and 6-1 Nicole Anderson — and led 11-8 at the first stop, but the Mooresville press took a serious toll in the second period.
With freshman reserve Lauren McBryar getting 10 points and three steals by herself in that quarter, the Pioneers went on a 13-2 run for a 21-13 lead and were still up 28-20 at halftime. At the end of two periods North had attempted 14 shots, making half of them, but had committed 16 turnovers.
“The second quarter probably determined the game. We didn’t handle [Mooresville’s] pressure very well,” Allen said later. “They made us play a lot faster than we wanted to play.”
Anderson, who closed out her high school career with another heroic effort, had all but one of North’s points in the second quarter and the first half of the third period, but willed her team within 29-25 with a 3-pointer early in the second half. The Patriots kept creeping closer, but yielded a drive through their zone defense by Mooresville’s Mandy Fisher in the final seconds of the third quarter that kept the Pioneers ahead 37-32.
It was still a six-point game in the fourth quarter, but baskets by Pritchard and Sierra Sykes got the Patriots within 42-40. Then Fisher, Mooresville’s senior leader, stepped up.
She drew a charging foul against Pritchard — Pritchard’s fifth — that wiped out a game-tying layup, then got a basket that gave her team some breathing room. After that the 5-8 Fisher came out of one of several scraps around the basket with a defensive rebound and hit two more free throws, and North never got closer than four points again.
“We had a great effort,” Allen noted. “We talked at the half about how there are no eight-point shots; we’d have to get back one shot at a time, one stop at a time, and we did. We had a chance to tie it up.”
Fisher, McBryar and Sarah Corbin had 12 points each to lead Mooresville, while Anderson had 28 points and Pritchard 10 plus a game-high nine rebounds for North.
“Nicole gave me four years of effort on every possession,” Allen said sadly after the game. “She was a great leder on the floor and she makes people around her a lot better. Miami of Ohio is getting a great player.”
North’s other senior was forward Lindsay Clark, of whom Allen said, “Lindsay was a great leader on and off the court. She stepped into that role this year and did a great job; she’ll be missed around practice and in the locker room.”