DODGE CITY, Kan. - This week, Spearville girls significantly worked on defense in practice for the Southern Plains Iroquois league tournament championship versus Montezuma-South Gray on Saturday.
“We were not worried about offense at all,” senior Ehlaina Hartman said.
Spearville’s keys included not letting the Rebels into the lane, along with hedging and recovering on screens. Coach Andrew Kempke told the Lancers to force SG standout senior Christy Wiebe to her left.
Spearville ran the scouting report to near perfection early and held the Rebels to a scoreless first quarter. The Lancers eventually won, 56-32, at United Wireless Arena. The performance elicited multiple superlatives from Kempke, Spearville’s players and SG coach Paul Clancy.
“Just overall, we were locked in with what we needed to do with the scouting report, and we played well,” Kempke said.
Spearville, ranked fifth in Class 2A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association, was the tournament’s top seed and improved to 13-0. The Lancers captured the league tournament for the first time since 2012.
“This senior class does not want to lose anything,” Hartman said. “We drill that in our younger girls’ heads that we are not going to go out there and lose, so that was a big thing.”
South Gray, ranked seventh in 1A, dropped to 12-2. The Rebels also fell 47-39 to Spearville on Dec. 20. SG earned tournament runner-up for the second straight winter. Last season, SG defeat Spearville, 41-40, in the sub-state championship game.
“They played a great game today,” Clancy said. “That’s as good as they can play. They played outstanding. They hit every shot they needed to make. They made a lot of shots.”
Hartman, an Emporia State signee and 1,000-point career scorer, tallied a game-high 23 points, along with five rebounds, four steals, and three blocks. She had an impressive all-around showing from the Lancers.
“It was nice to have one through seven overall just go out and play well and want to guard and want to defend,” Kempke said.
Senior Brianna Ede, a three-year starter, collected nine points and 11 rebounds. Spearville finished with just 10 turnovers. South Gray had 11 turnovers in the first quarter and 24 for the game.
“That’s by far the best we have played turnover-free all year long,” Kempke said. “It was very good to see it against a quality opponent.”
Junior Alissa Heskamp, who averages 13 points a contest, finished with four points, three rebounds and a pair of steals. Hartman, Heskamp and freshman Taegan Pedigo all tied with a team-best two assists.
Junior Addia Nau delivered 10 points and five rebounds, the third double-figure performance of her career and first this winter. Sophomore Anna Stein finished with eight points, one off her season best.
“Anna Stein, she finished at the rim,” Kempke said. “That’s probably about as well as she has finished at the rim all year long.”
In the first South Gray matchup, Spearville led South Gray, 21-19, after the first quarter. Wiebe eventually scored 10 points, though was 1 of 9 from the field. Rebel six-foot junior Debbie Peters had 13 points.
Hartman said Kempke “knew a lot” of South Gray’s plays from the previous meeting. Wiebe has more than 820 career points and averages 17 points a contest. She tallied two, and Saturday was her first single figure performance this winter. Hartman and Heskamp, known for their on-ball defense, each guarded Wiebe.
“She’s a great player, and I just had to break down and be smart,” Hartman said. “Cannot foul.”
If South Gray worked past a Spearville defender, the Lancers focused on having help.
“We did a great job helping as well tonight, too,” Kempke said.
Wiebe took South Gray’s first two shots. Both were blocked, one by Pedigo and the second from Ede. Overall, Wiebe
“We understood part of the game plan going into the game was if we can slow her down, if we can make it tough for her to score the ball, overall, there are going to struggle to score the ball,” Kempke said. “So that was just a big key for us.”
Ede sunk a free throw for a 1-0 lead, and Pedigo made the game’s first field goal off a Heskamp pass at the 5 minute, 14 second mark.
“We were just ready to play, and it’s just really exciting honestly,” Ede said. “I thought that we played well together.”
At 4:32, Peters collected her second foul. She eventually finished with eight points.
Hartman pushed the pace off a defensive rebound, went full court and scored for a 6-0 lead and forced a SG timeout with 3:46 left in the quarter. Then, Hartman had a steal and went in for a basket and an 8-0 advantage. Heskamp added a jumper, and Hartman scored on a drive to bump the lead to 12-0.
“This year we click,” Hartman said. “Everyone just flows together.”
Pedigo added a backcourt steal and basket for a 14-0 advantage. The Lancers finished the quarter with nine steals. South Gray scored its first basket 43 seconds into the second quarter on a turnaround from Peters. Clancy knew a comeback would be challenging against Spearville.
“We are not the Kansas City Chiefs,” Clancy said.
The Lancers led 28-7 at halftime and 42-22 after three quarters. Junior Megan Tarn paced South Gray with 11 points.
“I told the girls at halftime, ‘We need to be more aggressive,’” Clancy said. “Offensively, we weren’t playing real aggressive. We got us into some trouble. Second half, we responded. They come out strong. We turned them over on the press. First half, we couldn’t score, and if you can’t score, you can’t set up your press.”
Overall, Spearville shot 50 percent from the field, including five of its final nine to end the first quarter. The Lancers made at least half their shots for the fourth time this year, though the first occasion against a squad with more than seven victories. Spearville shot 38 percent in the first SG meeting.
“We ran really well in the first quarter, too,” Kempke said. “We didn’t necessarily run good offense, but we made shots, so when you make shots, it makes it look like you are running good offense. But we just played hard. … We played with good effort. I was very happy with the effort and the energy that we played with.”