The Sale Creek Lady Panthers got back on track Friday night at home against the CSAS Lady Patrioits.
The Lady Panthers had a 17-game winning streak snapped by Van Buren County in Monday night's District 6-A championship game, but a new streak began on Friday with the 60-49 victory over the Lady Patriots in the quarterfinal round of the Region 3-A tournament.
CSAS ends its season at 11-16 while Sale Creek improves to 22-5 and will face District 5-A champ Silverdale in the first girls semifinal on Monday at 6.
Whitwell takes on District 6-A winner Van Buren on Monday at 7:30.
Friday's game was close for a while, but Sale Creek's size and inside dominance finally took its toll as the Lady Panthers slowly pulled away in the second half.
"Our inside game took care of them, but free throws pulled us through as well," said Sale Creek coach Debbie Hill afterward.
"I thought we played a good consisent game. We started off kind of slow, which is typical of this team, but once we got our feet under us, they started fouling us and that changed the complexion of the game.
"We knew how quick and physical CSAS was and we didn't want to be facing a close game at the end. I'm really pleaed with the effort," Hill added.
The Lady Panthers were intent on working the ball inside and they were very successful at it as Erin Hill scored 25 points to lead the way for Sale Creek. Krissy Hodge and Megan Storey both added 11 points for the winners while Mikayla Crowder finished with six.
Hill opened the game with two quick buckets inside before the Lady Patriots responded with a putback from Brooke Mitchell and then a 3 from Resnick Billen to take a 5-4 lead midway through the first quarter.
The lead changed hands three more times before Sale Creek got another inside bucket from Crowder and two free throws from Hill to take an 11-8 lead. Aizha Little sank a jumper from the wing to cut Sale Creek's lead to 11-10 when the first quarter ended.
Three free throws from Hill and a short bank shot by Hodge allowed Sale Creek to extend its lead to 16-10 two minutes into the second stanza. Hodge scored on another short bank shot for a 23-15 lead before the Lady Patriots scored the final four points to make it 23-19 at intermission.
Back-to-back buckets from Keturah Billen and Mitchell cut Sale Creek's lead to 25-23 early in the second half, but the Lady Patriots never got any closer as the Lady Panthers slowly pulled away.
The difference was 10 at 38-28 when the third quarter ended.
Sale Creek's biggest lead of 16 points came following a layup by Crowder with 3:25 to play at 50-34, but the Lady Patriots had one more surge to score the next eight points, but the double-figure lead was simply too much for the Lady Patriots to overcome and Sale Creek maintained a comfortable lead by hitting 17 of 19 free throws in the second half.
"We were short a player and that hurt our rotation, but it was a physical game and they pounded the ball inside," said CSAS coach Lee Ziegler after a brief talk with his girls after the game ended.
"They were relentless getting the ball inside and we didn't have an answer. I thought we played with a lot of passion, but at times, it got the best of us. Our girls didn't want the season to end, but we were not successful at keeping them from getting the ball in the paint.
"And of course, they hit a bunch of free throws and that made our job even harder," Ziegler added.
Hill scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds as Sale Creek won the battle of the boards, 32-31. During the game, she also claimed her 1,000th career rebound. Earlier in the season against these same Lady Patriots, she also surpassed 1,000 career points.
Hodge snagged six rebounds for the Lady Panthers while Brooke Welch and Storey both claimed five.
Keturah Billen scored 14 points to lead CSAS while Resnick Billen was next with 11. Mitchell followed with eight points while Little and Christianna Smith both finished with seven.
Smith and Mitchell both grabbed nine rebounds for the Lady Patriots.
CSAS 10 9 9 21 -- 49
Sale Creek 11 12 15 22 -- 60
ARTS & SCIENCES (49) -- Little 7, K. Billen 14, McElvain, Mitchell 8, Montgomery 2, R. Billen 11, Ealey, Smith 7.
SALE CREEK (60) -- Hill 25, Hodge 11, Price, Wolff, Crowder 6, Storey 11, Welch 3, Hixson 2, May 2.
3-POINT GOALS: CSAS 3 (R. Billen 3); Sale Creek 1 (Storey).
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)