GREAT BEND, Kan. - It took a few quarters but the St. John girls finally got the job done in the Hilltop Hoops Classic semifinals. Trailing Little River 29-25 after three quarters, the Lady Tigers won the fourth quarter 17-3 to advance to Friday's championship game against Central Plains.
"We just finally calmed down and played," said St. John coach Danny Smith. "I don't know what was going on. We were just throwing the ball to so many places. We started defending better and I think that helped."
Little River used turnovers in the second quarter to establish a 16-14 lead, and the Lady Redskins led most of the way from there. Lady Tiger senior Erin Crissman changed that with a 3-pointer early in the third quarter to put St. John on top 30-29, then Smith added a trey for a 33-29 lead with 5:35 remaining.
St. John continued to dominate both ends of the floor down the stretch. Smith went baseline, then Crissman added a drive. The Tigers eventually led by as many as 10 points before Little River ended its scoring drought on a Lily Boughfman basket with 1:45 to play.
Smith opened the game strong with a pair of baseline drives in the first two and a half minutes. Emma McBride added six early points on the other end as the teams hit the end of the first quarter knotted at eight.
The teams combined for seven turnovers in the first two minutes of the second quarter. The Tigers kept up the pace with nine giveaways in the frame. Little River picked up six points from senior Leah Ayers off the bench and led 20-17 at the half.
Smith made five of her seven shots from the field for her game-high 16 points. Crissman finished with 12 points, and freshman Jade Portillo picked up six key points early on off the bench. Ayers paced the Lady Redskins with eight points, and McBride finished with six points. Boughfman grabbed nine rebounds to go with her five points.
Coach Smith and the Lady Tigers are all too familiar with Central Plains. St. John will face that battle for Friday night's championship game.
"We just try to get better at what we're doing and try to be better than the last time we played them," he said. "You stick with it and it tells you a lot about your integrity. Are you going to quit or battle the whole time? We just tell them to battle the whole time."