No. 1 Hawks take out No. 1 Rams 39-24 in semi
Southridge wins a showdown against Central Catholic in Friday's semi
PORTLAND - The stakes were high, the opponent was fierce and the venue was the state's biggest, but Southridge was ready for all that and more in Friday's Class 6A state semifinals.
The Skyhawks, top-ranked in one poll and No. 2 in the other, flexed their muscles impressively in their second game at the Chiles Center, racing away from Central Catholic 39-24 to earn a berth in the state title contest. The Rams, who finished third in the tournament with a 24-3 record, entered the game like the Skyhawks as No. 1 in one poll and No. 2 in the other, but left in considerably worse shape.
Southridge held the talented Rams to single-digit scoring in all four quarters, limited them to 21 percent shooting from the floor, pulled ahead early and never trailed.
'That was our goal, for everybody to get on everybody (defensively) and be aggressive,' said senior guard Kiara Tate, who helped hold Central star Kate Lanz to just six points on 1-of-8 shooting from the floor.
'I thought defensively it was one of our best games,' said Southridge coach Mike Meek. 'That was kind of our game plan, to make them take tough shots over hands and I think we did a good job of not giving them open 'threes.''
The Skyhawks 'D'd' up big-time right from the opening tip too, holding the Rams to 2-of-8 shooting and six turnovers in the opening quarter while Alex Earl and Allison Greene hit three-pointers for Southridge and Michelle Jenkins turned in a three-point play en route to an 11-6 first-quarter lead.
Central was still within 20-13 at halftime and cut the Skyhawk lead to 24-19 after three quarters, but Southridge slowly and surely pulled away in that final period. The Hawks made just 11-of-20 foul shots in the fourth, but got nine points from Earl (including a 7-of-10 effort from the line) and four from Tate to leave the Rams behind.
'We were really excited for the game,' said sophomore wing Allie Brock, who had five points and four rebounds in the victory. 'You know it's going to be tough and we just played
our game and got after it.'
Southridge's defense - which held Central Catholic to 16 percent shooting in the second half - and its ability to get to the foul line - the Skyhawks got 25 tries and made 13 - played a huge part in overcoming Jenkins' foul trouble. Jenkins, a 6-foot-3
senior post who will play at USC next year, picked up her fourth foul with 3:46 left in the third quarter and finished with just seven points in 20 minutes.
'That girl is my backbone on the court,' said Earl, who led her team with 17 points. 'And when she wasn't out there, honestly, I got chills. I knew I had to step up and the rest of the girls knew right then we had to step up because Michelle is a huge part of the team.'
'I thought when (Jenkins got in foul trouble) our kids did a really nice job of taking care of the ball, and we were actually able to gain an advantage … and that's usually not the case,' Meek said.
Central stars Lanz and Audrey Miller, a first-team all-tournament selection, combined for 13 points total and needed 19 shots just to get there against Southridge's stingy defense.
Lanz 'likes to work off the dribble and shoot pull-up jump shots, so you just stay back and keep your hand up in her shot,' Tate said. 'She's a really good player, but that's one thing you have to do is play the drive and get your hand up on the shot.'
That defense, along with plain old desire, was more than enough to power the Hawks' semifinal win.
'Central Catholic is good and everybody knows that,' Earl added. 'I'm not going to say they didn't have very much heart, but it came down to who wanted it more.'