One district champion advanced to the championship game of the Region 3-A girls tournament on Wednesday night at Sale Creek while the other did not.
District 5 champ Silverdale came from behind late to eliminate Sale Creek by a 62-58 final in Monday's first semifinal while the Whitwell Lady Tigers had their way with District 6 champ Van Buren County before prevailing by a not-so-close 60-47 final in the second game.
The Lady Seahawks, now 20-8 and winners of 11 straight games, will meet the 25-8 Lady Tigers for the first time this season on Wednesday at 7.
The Region winner will be at home on Saturday to host a sectional game while the runner-up will be on the road.
The boys have center stage on Tuesday at Sale Creek with their two semifinal games. Boyd-Buchanan faces CSAS in the first one at 6 while Silverdale at Grace collide in the second game around 7:30.
SILVERDALE 62, SALE CREEK 58: The Lady Panthers bolted to a 7-0 lead in the first minute before Silverdale responded with a 7-0 run of their own to knot the score with 5:21 showing in the first quarter.
The Lady Seahawks never led in the first half as Sale Creek used its size advantage inside to dictate the pace and the scoreboard. The Lady Panthers enjoyed their biggest lead of eight points on three occasions in the first half, but Silverdale scored the final five points of the half and trailed by only 25-22 at intermission.
Silverdale senior Mariah Massengill was limited to just two points in a miserable first-half performance, but she more than made up for it in the final 16 minutes as she personally took charge and scored 24 of her team's 40 second-half points.
Megan Storey scored on a jumper from the key with 4:39 to play as Sale Creek still had the upper hand at 58-49, but the Lady Panthers didn't score again as Silverdale finished the game on a 13-0 run.
Sloane Woodard and Emily Skelton both sank a pair of free throws to start the comeback while Massengill sank a big 3 from the corner to draw her team within 58-56 with just under three minutes to play. The senior got her team to within one with a free throw at the 2:32 mark before giving her team the lead for the first time on a three-point play with 1:43 to go.
Massengill, who was cold as ice for the most part from outside, changed her plan of attack and started driving the lane. She was simply too quick for the Sale Creek defenders as a nifty drive down the lane on that last went in and she calmly sank the ensuing free throw.
Sale Creek was playing from behind for the first time all game and they went to senior Alexis Wolff, who had scored all of her 18 points from behind the arc. Wolff's final shot was off the mark and Massengill got the rebound with 26 seconds left before getting fouled.
Massengill sank both charity tosses for the final four-point difference as Sale Creek was unable to score on three late attempts from the floor.
"Those big girls were tough inside, but we stayed with our game plan," said Silverdale coach David Massengill.
"I had four big-time players out there including one who is really big time and she picked it up in the second half," he said, referring to his daughter.
"I challenged her at the half and told her to just erase the first half from her mind. She normally has a response, but she just nodded her head. We had to stop their inside penetration and I changed from a 2-3 zone defense to a 3-2.
"We also got some calls go our way at the end, but I think we just made more plays than they did in the fourth quarter. We always talk about playing hard for four quarters and we did that tonight. We really picked up the intensity in the third and we were even better in the fourth. We've never played in a region final before, so it should be exciting," the coach nodded.
The coach's daughter has never backed down from a challenge and she certainly didn't on Monday night. She was just thankful that her teammates picked up the slack in the first half.
"I was off in the first half, but I just told my teammates that we had to keep pushing. Even when we were behind, I didn't get scared as I wasn't worried one bit. We just had to keep making our shots and that's what we did," Mariah expressed afterward.
Sale Creek coach Debbie Hill liked her team's effort, but she cringed when she was reminded that her girls didn't score for the last 4:39.
"We had it and then lost it, but they had a good game plan and we went away from ours," she began after her team ended its season at 22-6.
"The Massengill girl is a great player and we knew we couldn't hold her down the entire game. Other girls stepped up for them. We didn't attack their zone defense like we should have and we just didn't get to the free throw line.
"We had an outstanding season, but it just didn't end like we would have wanted," Hill concluded.
Massengill had 26 points to lead both teams in scoring. Megan Lewis and Woodard followed with 14 points apiece for the Lady Seahawks.
Wolff's 18 was tops for Sale Creek. Erin Hill finished with 13 while Krissy Hodge and Mikayla Crowder both added 10 points.
Sale Creek had a 39-21 edge in rebounding with Hodge and Crowder both grabbing 11 for Sale Creek.
Woodard had five for Siverdale while Massengill, Haley Redmond, Emily Skelton and Abbie Alosi all claimed four.
WHITWELL 60, VAN BUREN CO. 47: The Lady Tigers were ready to play and they got good results as they eliminated the District 6 champions.
Whitwell's lead of 12-9 when the first quarter ended was still three points (24-21) when the horn sounded for intermission.
Freshman Lakelyn Bouldin, who scored all 13 of her team's points in the third quarter, gave her team leads of 25-24 with 6:26 showing and 27-26 a minute later, but Whitwell seemed to have an answer for everything the Lady Eagles had to offer.
Bouldin sank the second of two free throws with less than a second remaining in the third as Van Buren got to within 36-34 with eight minutes to play.
The Lady Eagles got a 3 from Carly Cole with 4:42 to play to get within 41-39, but a drive by Alyssa Coppinger and a three-point play by Haley Atterton gave the Lady Tigers a 46-39 lead with 2:41 to go.
Whitwell added a dozen more free throws at the end as the lead kept stretching with Coppinger's breakaway layup in the waning seconds gave the Lady Tigers its biggest lead of the game at the end.
"We made some big shots tonight and we did a good job of finishing on the free throws and layups," said a jubilant Whitwell coach Eric Zensen after the game ended.
"Our zone defense was active and that helped us, but down the stretch, we made our free throws and got some key rebounds. The Bouldin girl had scored 31 and 24 points in our first two games, so we changed our strategy on her as we just tried to limit what the others players did.
"This will be our third trip to the region finals and that's big for our program. A lot of girls stepped up and played big tonight," he added.
Coppinger was tops for Whitwell with 21 points. Atterton was next with 15 while Paige Carter followed with 10 points. Kelsey Kilgore did her part with nine.
Bouldin was tops for Van Buren with 30 points, which included 20 in the second half. Tiffany Grissom was next with eight.
The Lady Eagles end their season at 21-10.
Silverdale 11 11 22 18 -- 62
Sale Creek 16 9 23 10 -- 58
SILVERDALE (62) -- Alosi 2, Massengill 26, Lewis 14, Woodward 14, Smith, Redmond 3, Sims, Skelton .
SALE CREEK (58) -- Hill 13, Hodge 10, Wolff 18, Crowder 10, Storey 4, Welch, Hixson 3.
3-POINT GOALS: Silverdale 6 (Massengill, Lewis 4, Woodward); Sale Creek 8 (HIll, Wolff 6, Hixson).
Whitwell 12 12 12 24 -- 60
Van Buren Co. 9 12 13 13 -- 47
WHITWELL (60) -- Gholston 5, Smith, Bennington, Atterton 15, Coppinger 21, Carter 10, Kilgore 9, Headrick, Andregg.
VAN BUREN CO. (47) -- Hankins, Grissom 8, Christian, Hitchcock 5, Bouldin 30, Cole 4.
3-POINT GOALS: Whitwell 3 (Coppinger, Carter, Kilgore); Van Buren Co. 2 (Hitchcock, Cole).
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)