Alli Heimerman thought about the question of playing Hillsboro before conceding it would give Garden Plain extra motivation to win a Class 3A state basketball championship.
Garden Plain took care of business with a dominating 57-35 semifinal victory Friday over Russell at Hutchinson’s Sports Arena. Hillsboro, the 3A volleyball champion over Garden Plain, wasn’t so fortunate, losing to unbeaten Burlington 55-45 for the second year in a row in the semifinals.
“It would be nice to play Hillsboro to get a little revenge, but we’ll play the team that wins,” Heimerman said.
Heimerman did her part with 13 points, eight assists and four offensive rebounds. The Owls shared the basketball perfectly wth 17 assists on 23 baskets.
Cassidy Haukup scored 13 points. Natalie Dooley drilled back-to-back 3-pointers off Heimerman assists for a 49-28 lead. Dooley scored 11 points.
“I love every part of the game, passing, shooting and playing defense,” Heimerman said. “Our chemistry is really good and we’re playing really well right now. We’re peaking at the right time.”
The Owls grabbed 14 offensive rebounds that translated to 16 points. The Owls made 23 of 50 field goals for 46 percent shooting. They will play No. 1 ranked Burlington (25-0) at 4 p.m. Saturday at Hutchinson’s Sports Arena.
“I’m picky -- I want every rebound. We work on rebounding every day,” said Garden Plain coach Sarah McCormick. “We stress rebounding as something that is crucial. When the ball is loose, you have to go get the basketball. They work hard every day.”
The Owls played aggressively from a zone defense by getting in the passing lanes for 19 Russell turnovers that led to 18 points.
“Our defense was really good today,” McCormick said. “We go over how we’re going to play our defense and how to use our quickness to our advantage.”
Garden Plain (23-1) has captured three state basketball championships in 1978, 1995 and 2001.
Russell coach Frank Schulte was puzzled by the lack of offensive execution. Madison Beagley led the Broncos with 11 points and Janna Schulte added eight points. The Broncos shot 37 percent on 14 of 38 field goals.
“I still can’t figure out why we couldn’t beat that zone defense,” Schulte said. “I saw Riley County struggle against it. I thought I had an answer with some post flashes in the paint. We didn’t get the pass away or threw the pass too late. We had seven or seven turnovers trying to get that pass in there.”
Schulte said the Owls featured quick and athletic players that provided matchup problems.
“We’ve got quick guards. Their quickness is good, but it was their athleticism that gave us trouble,” Schulte said. “We outrebound 95 percent of the teams we’ve played. Garden Plain is more seasoned and more experienced than we are. They are a very good team.”
Russell (19-6) has not finished as high as third place in a state tournament since 1974. The Broncos play Hillsboro at noon Saturday.
The Owls dominated the boards 18-9 the first half and scored 13 second-chance points to lead comfortably 29-17. Garden Plain also converted eight Russell turnovers into nine points.
Several times, the Owls would miss a shot, only to retrieve the carom and score on a second chance. The Owls scored eight consecutive points for a 19-12 lead. Natalie Dooley scored on the Owls’ fourth attempt. Heimerman passed to Noelle Dooley for a 15-8 lead.
Heimerman capped the mini-run on a 3-point goal and completed off a 4-point play after a foul on Janna Schulte for a 19-12 lead.
BURLINGTON 55, HILLSBORO 45 – Burlington’s Breanna Bluma made seven free throws in the final two minutes to hold off Hillsboro’s rally. Bluma finished with 13 points and four assists.
Addie Lackey’s basket with 2:30 left sliced Burlington’s lead to 46-43. But the Wildcats made Hillsboro pay for fouling with 11 free throws in the final period. They made 16 of 22 free throws. The Wildcats outscored the Trojans 15-9 on 3-pointers and 7-2 on second-chance points.
Burlington’s Madison Stewart scored 18 points, 16 in the first half. Sarah Pearson added 13 points. The Eagles made 17 of 40 field goals and 5 of 9 3-pointers.
Hillsboro was paced by Lackey with 19 points and Tena Loewen added 13 points. The Trojans
Burlington (24-0) earned a state basketball championship in 2000. The Wildcats defeated Hillsboro for the second year in a row after winning 62-47 in last year’s semifinals. Silver Lake beat Burlington in the 2012 state championship game.
Hillsboro (22-3) has finished third-place in Class 3A the past two years. The Trojans captured the 2011 and 2012 Class 3A volleyball championships and the 2012 Class 3A state softball title.
SCOTT CITY BOYS 50, NEMAHA VALLEY 38 -- Two-time defending state champion Scott City rallied from an early eight-point deficit with dominating defense over the final three periods.
Scott City controlled the game with good ball control and the Beavers’ defense kept the Raiders in check. Drew Kite led the Beavers with 16 points, 10 rebounds and two charges drawn defensively. Trey O’Neil scored 12 points and point guard Brett O’Neil was solid with 10 points and a game high six assists.
Nemaha Valley led 17-9 in the first period behind 5 of 9 shooting from the field. But the Raiders shot 27 percent the final three quarters while scoring 21 points.
“They came out with an offense we had not seen,” said Scott City coach Glen O’Neil. “That gave us trouble. On offense, our post guys were a little frustrated and we made a few turnovers.”
Scott City’s Trey O’Neil drilled a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer on an assist by Brett O’Neil for a stunning 25-22 halftime lead.
“When we were ahead at halftime, it takes some wind our of their sails because we were behind the whole half,” said coach O’Neil. “When we started running our offense, we got what we wanted. They are smart kids, but our kids like to play at a fast pace.”
Scott City (24-1) will play Humboldt (25-0) in Saturday's 6:15 p.m. championship game. The Beavers lost its only game to Class 6A Wichita North in the Dodge City Tournament of Champions.
Nemaha Valley (23-2) was paced by Justice McKernan with 10 points and 6-foot-6 Creighton Brinker muscled for 10 points and 14 rebounds. But he was hampered with foul trouble.
The Raiders finished 11 of 31 from the field.
Scott City has captured four state basketball championships. Nemaha Valley captured state titles I 1984 and 1988.
HUMBOLDT BOYS 47, SILVER LAKE 35 – The Humboldt Cubs preserved their perfect 25-0 record by beating Silver Lake in Friday’s 3A state semifinals. Humboldt captured the 1969 Class 2A state championship, 44 years ago.
Friday’s semifinal had no drama like the Cubs’ last three post-season games that went down to the finish.
Humboldt busted the game open with a 16-3 scoring edge in the third quarter. Trey Johnson converted a trio of 3-point goals. Nathan Whitcomb and Hunter Murrow each converted two baskets in the third quarter.
Whitcomb finished with 15 points and Johnson added 11 points. Noah Thornbrugh dominated inside with 14 rebounds and seven points.
Humboldt had survived overtime victories over Burlington 74-70 and Eureka 59-58 to qualify for 3A state, then held off Salina Sacred Heart 41-37 in Thursday’s state opener.
Silver Lake’s Trenton Smith scored 24 points in a brilliant one-man effort, including 12 free throws. But his teammates made 4 of 22 field goals, 18 percent. The Eagles made 6 of 30 field goals through three periods to trail 34-20.
The Eagles’ Peter Pfannenstiel had nothing left after a heroic defensive effort against 6-foot-6 Austin Budke of Beloit. He finished with three points after a 19-point effort against Beloit.
Silver Lake (21-3) captured its lone state basketball crown in 1981. Humboldt captured the 1969 Class 2A state championship.