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February 17, 2013

Sullivan reaches regional championship game

Paoli — Conditions heading into the championship game of the Class 2A Paoli Regional for girls high school basketball could have been better for Sullivan on Saturday.

But although the Golden Arrows had a far tougher game two hours later than Evansville Mater Dei — and Mater Dei is ranked first in the state and the defending state champion — they had at least advanced, thanks to a hard-fought 55-45 win over Austin.

And maybe with the promise of a better game ahead of them.

“This was definitely a warmup game,” said Rhagen Smith, who had 13 points and 14 rebounds in the Arrows’ victory. “Last year [when Sullivan lost to Mater Dei in the regional’s first round] there was a little bit of jitters.”

“We got rattled, and that included me for sure,” said Sullivan floor general Caelan Jones, who had a whopper of a stat line all across the board, “but we stepped back, took a deep breath . . . we’re ready for the next game.”

“It shouldn’t have been so hard,” coach Julie Meeks said of her team’s win. “We were really rattled, and a lot of our turnovers were unforced.”

The third-ranked Arrows jumped out quickly on the eighth-ranked Eagles, scoring the game’s first six points and taking a 15-7 lead when Emily Cottom hit a 3-pointer to open the second quarter.

Austin’s entire offense, for more than a quarter, was the driving ability of senior guard Jessie Davidson — but for a while that was almost enough. The Eagles got within 17-16 and then 22-20 before a steal and two free throws by Jones and a Jones pass to Sydney Chapman for a basket enabled Sullivan to lead 26-20 at intermission.

Turnovers helped Austin score the first seven points of the third quarter, but its 27-26 lead lasted just 15 seconds, until Smith converted two free throws at the other end. Jaleigh Gilham followed with a 3-pointer, but Austin’s Kamry Howard matched it to keep the Eagles within 31-30.

Davidson had been stifled in the third quarter, however, with Chapman getting more help from her teammates. And Sullivan found holes in the Austin defense for some easy shots by Smith and Chapman — set up by passes from Cottom and Jones — to enable the Arrows to outscore the Eagles 10-3 in the last half of the third quarter.

“We knew we couldn’t hold the ball too long [against Austin’s trapping defense],” Jones said. “When you move the ball ... [those shots] are there every time.”

Still the turnovers kept Sullivan’s lead from being comfortable, and the Arrows didn’t score for nearly four minutes of the fourth quarter to let Austin back within 41-37. Jones had two free throws and a steal and layup — moments before picking up a fourth foul — and Sullivan used that breathing room to pull away down the stretch.

Chapman led Sullivan in scoring with 14 points, while Gilham had 10 and Jones finished with nine points, eight rebounds, eight assists and seven steals.

She stayed in the game after the four fouls too.

“When I make a turnover, which I did, I want the ball back so bad it’s like a drug to me,” Jones said of her aggressive fouls.

“If I had to pick a most valuable player, it would be Sydney Chapman,” Meeks said afterward. “She played tough D, tough offense ... she played great today.”

Although Davidson finished with a game-high 16 points — including her team’s first nine of the game — she was held to one basket in the second half and her team struggled when she was ineffective.

“She’s one of the toughest I’ve had to guard all year,” said Chapman, who always gets Sullivan’s toughest defensive assignment. “My goal [against players like that] is hold them below their average [Davidson’s is 19 points per game].

“At halftime we decided to help out on her a little more ... hedge out, try to trap her a little bit.”

“We told [the Arrows] the same thing [at halftime] that we told them before the game,” Meeks said. “We wanted to jump out and double her, make her give the ball up.”

Chapman’s points were also part of the game plan, even though her 12 field-goal attempts were more than she’d taken in all but one game this year.

“We knew [the Eagles] were going to be pressuring Caelan and Jaleigh and clogging it in on Rhagen,” Chapman said, “so I knew I had to look for my shot.”

“I think we executed what we needed,” said Smith, “and down the stretch, with the exception of me, we hit our free throws.”

Mater Dei’s route to Saturday night’s championship game was a lot simpler. The Wildcats went on a 15-0 run in the first quarter to take a 20-4 lead and, after Paoli got within 12 points at halftime, opened the third quarter strong to take all doubt away.

Tori Schickel led the winners with 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Ashlynn Spahn scored 12, Beth Fischer had 10 points and nine rebounds and junior star Maura Muensterman was the best player on the floor with nine points, six rebounds and nine assists. Sophie Sears tried hard to keep fourth-ranked Paoli in the game and finished with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists.

 

SULLIVAN (55) — Harrison 1-5 0-0 2, Chapman 6-12 2-2 14, R.Smith 3-5 7-12 13, Jones 2-4 5-6 9, Gilham 3-7 2-2 10, Cottom 3-7 0-0 7, Wilkes 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-40 FG, 16-22 FT, 55 TP.

AUSTIN (45) — Howard 5-12 2-5 14, Davidson 6-13 3-5 16, Oeffinger 1-5 2-3 4, M.Smith 1-3 1-2 3, Mace 0-2 0-0 0, Riley 1-2 0-0 2, Embrey 2-6 0-0 6, Reynolds 0-0 0-0 0, Jeffries 0-0 0-0 0, Misamore 0-0 0-0 0, Hollan 0-0 0-0 0, Turner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-43 FG, 8-15 FT, 45 TP.

Sullivan    12    14    15    14    —    55

Austin    7    13    13    12    —    45

3-point shooting — Sullivan 3-10 (Gilham 2-6, Cottom 1-4), Austin 5-13 (Howard 2-4, Embrey 2-6, Davidson 1-1, M.Smith 0-2). Total fouls — Sullivan 14, Austin 17. Fouled out — Oeffinger. Technical foul — Gilham. Turnovers — Sullivan 18, Austin 18. Rebounds — Sullivan 37 (R.Smith 14, Jones 8, Harrison 4, Chapman 3, Cottom 3, Gilham 1, team 4), Austin 25 (Oeffinger 5). Assists — Sullivan 15 (Jones 8, Cottom 4, Smith 2, Chapman), Austin 4 (Howard 2). Steals — Sullivan 9 (Jones 7, R.Smith, Gilham), Austin 6 (Davidson 3). Blocks — Sullivan 3 (R.Smith 3), Austin 3 (Howard, Oeffinger, M.Smith).

Next — Sullivan (23-2) and Evansville Mater Dei (25-2) advanced to the regional championship game. Paoli finished 21-2, Austin 19-5.

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