HEBRON – When Delanie Gale rose and drilled a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter, it was a big moment in the context of South Central’s Class 2A Hebron Sectional semifinal against North Newton on Friday.
Not only did the Satellites’ sophomore stem the tide of a Spartans run that cut a 16-point deficit to seven, it would prove to be S.C.’s final basket of the game.
Yes, the game.
The final eight minutes featured an endless procession to the free throw line in which South Central attempted 27 foul shots and made 16 for all of its points to secure a 64-51 win.
“Getting to the line shows we’re being aggressive,” S C.’s Faith Biggs said. “It doesn’t show on the scoreboard that we got 54 (free throws). We’ve got to get more shots up.”
The Satellites (18-7) attempted just three field goals in the fourth quarter, expanding their advantage at a snail-like pace.
“We held the ball and didn’t freak out when they came and pressured us,” coach Wes Bucher said. “They fouled us and we got to the free throw line. That’s how cut and dried it needs to be. In a big game, it has to be simple. You have to be ready for that and not give them any extra opportunities.”
The endless parade did drain on the rhythm of the game, which heated up in the third quarter after South Central had pulled out to a 31-18 halftime advantage. North Newton (11-12) drilled four treys in the third, three of them by Grace Hollopeter to bring the Spartans within 45-38.
That’s when Gale delivered, holding the follow-through pose as she headed back down court.
“Both teams were going at it all night,” Gale said. “We just had to show them that we were here. It’s hard to keep the energy up when it’s free throw, free throw, free throw, but you have to stay in the game the whole time.”
Biggs propped up S.C. early when it struggled offensively, save for her. South Central fell behind 6-1 and was even at 13 at the quarter before its second-quarter push, keyed by its trapping defense that forced 11 Spartans turnovers in that span.
“The PCC championship, I didn’t shoot well,” Biggs said. “Someone has to come out strong when the team not shooting well and try to step up as much as possible.”
Biggs had 14 of her 16 points in the first half. Amber Wolf topped South Central with 17 despite just two field goals. She was 13 of 19 at the line. Gale notched 11 points and freshman Olivia Marks added 10, all coming on free throws, and she snagged eight rebounds.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of getting into Amber in the first half, getting some good looks early, which we’re looking to see against zones,” Bucher said. “I was happy with our rebounding. We’re not super big, but I feel like we’re getting back to being physical at the right time. The next step for us is getting our posts to score. We need to come out with the same fight, we just need to be a little stronger.”
S.C. finished 34 of 54 at the line, scoring 12 baskets from the field, while the Spartans were 9 of 11 on free throws.
They’re free shots,” Bucher said, shrugging about the methodical fourth quarter. “It’s hard to regenerate that energy on the defensive end.”