Adrian moves on in Section 3A
MARSHALL -- Keyed by an aggressive full-court defensive scheme in the second half Friday night, the top-seeded Adrian Dragons rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit with a huge 16-0 surge and earned a 57-43 victory over the third-seeded Southwest Christian Eagles in the championship game of the Section 3A South girls' basketball tournament at the R/A Facility at Southwest Minnesota State University.
Adrian, which is now 27-1, advances to the Section 3A title game Friday night. The Dragons will play Canby -- which defeated Wabasso 84-51 in the Section 3A North title game -- at a site to be determined.
"This was a nice win, and we're very excited to be moving on to the next round," Adrian head coach Randy Strand said after the game. "These girls have had an outstanding season, and the way we played in the second half tonight was a great example of what we have been doing all season-long."
The Dragons, who came up with 15 team steals and forced 28 Eagles' turnovers, outscored SWC 41-19 in the second half, including 16-0 in a span of 5:13 midway through the period to swing the game in their favor.
SWC, which finishes its season with a 19-6 record, led 36-31 following a defensive rebound and a tough coast-to-coast basket by senior Brianna Spronk (12 points) at the 10:49 mark of the second half.
The Eagles, though, didn't score on any of their next 10 possessions. Meanwhile, Adrian scored on 10 of its 11 possessions during that same stretch and took command of the game.
Dragon senior Sam Lynn (14 points, five rebounds, three steals) sank a pair of free throws to make it 36-33 with 10:37 remaining. Senior Erica Thier (11 points, five assists, four rebounds, four steals) scored on the left block to make it 36-35 with 9:23 left.
Adrian's increased defensive pressure starting taking its toll on SWC after that, and Lynn -- following an offensive rebound and kick-out pass by senior Mary Loosbrock (eight rebounds, five points) -- gave the Dragons their third lead of the game (37-36) with a smooth pull-up jumper in the lane at the 8:53 mark.
Senior Katy Slater (five points, five rebounds) provided an offensive-rebound basket to put Adrian up 39-36 with 8:26 to go, and both Loosbrock and junior Ashley Thier (four points, four steals) sank a free throw in the next 55 seconds to push the Dragons' lead to 41-36 with 7:31 on clock.
Slater scored off a drive-and-dish from Erica Thier and later added a free throw to increase Adrian's advantage to 44-36 with 6:27 left. Loosbrock, who grabbed another offensive rebound and netted a free throw to make it 45-36 at the 5:30 mark, capped Adrian's burst by converting a steal in the back-court into a layup -- giving the Dragons a 47-36 lead with 5:24 remaining.
"Mary played a great game for us tonight," Strand said. "She led us with eight rebounds and came up with several other key plays, including that big steal and layup in the back-court."
Spronk and junior Kara Van Dyke (12 points) each meshed two free throws to help SWC pull within eight (48-40) with 3:04 to play. But the Dragons were executing their delay game at that time and scored the next nine points to build a 57-40 lead with 22.7 seconds left.
Erica Thier went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, Ashley Thier passed to sophomore Karli Meyer for a key three-point play, and sophomore Hailee Heitkamp sank a pair of foul shots to help seal the victory for the Dragons. SWC's Megan DeRuyter, a freshman, swished a 3-pointer in the left corner with seven seconds remaining to account for the game's last points.
"We don't like to press too much, but we thought we had to because we were down," said Strand, who was named the Section 3A South coach of the year. "It definitely gave us a spark, as we also became more aggressive on offense and started finishing our drives and hitting some big shots."
While Adrian dominated the second half, it was SWC that controlled things throughout the first half -- particularly on the defensive end. The Eagles jumped out to leads of 4-0, 8-2 and 14-4 before opening up a 13-point spread (18-5) with 6:21 left.
Van Dyke scored the game's first four points on two shots in the paint in the first 2:46, while junior Jada Vander Veen (six points) scored on a put-back chance, and senior Angie Vermeer popped in an 18-footer in the left corner to put the Eagles up 8-2 at the 10:34 mark.
Back-to-back offensive-rebound baskets by Van Dyke and Spronk later gave the Eagles a 14-4 lead at the 8:08 mark.
SWC's lead grew by three points during the next 1:47, as junior Kayla Broekhuis (six points) collected a steal and went coast-to-coast for a layup, and Spronk dished to Van Dyke for a nifty transition hoop to make it 18-5 with 6:21 left.
Meyer, who scored 11 of her game-high 16 points in the second half, scored Adrian's first five points of the game, including an interior hoop at the 10:17 mark for the Dragons' first field goal of the night.
Adrian's second basket of the game came with 5:35 left, as Lynn found Erica Thier for a 3-pointer in the left corner to help make it 18-10.
SWC, which had 20 defensive stops on 25 Dragon possessions in the first 13 minutes, regained a 13-point lead (24-11) with two minutes remaining, as Van Dyke (10 first-half points) hit two free throws, and Vander Veen and Broekhuis each knocked down a perimeter shot.
Adrian, which was just 4-for-23 (17 percent) from the field in the first half, trimmed the gap to eight (24-16) by halftime behind a free throw from Loosbrock and a pair of hoops from Lynn, including a pull-up jumper from the right elbow with four seconds to go.
The Dragons, who connected on 12 of 26 shots in the second half and went 23-for-37 on free throws (compared to SWC's 10-for-13), scored five straight points out of the break and trailed by three (24-21) with 15:55 to go.
Twenty-eight seconds later, SWC had a 28-21 lead. Adrian, though, scored eight straight points to take its first lead (29-28) with 13:50 remaining.
Meyer swished a 3-pointer from out top to start that spurt, while Erica Thier came up with a couple of steals and made passes (one to Ashley Thier and one to Meyer) for a pair of fast-break hoops to help the Dragons go ahead.
SWC scored eight of the next 10 points to reclaim the advantage. Two free throws by Spronk, an offensive-rebound basket by junior Vayla Van Dyke and a left-elbow jumper from Broekhuis put the Eagles up 34-31.
Spronk made it 36-31 with her basket at the 10:49 mark, but Adrian countered with 16 consecutive points to change the game.
SWC 24 19 -- 43
Adrian 16 41 -- 57
SWC (3PT-2PT-FT-TP): Broekhuis 0-3-0-6, DeRuyter 1-0-0-3, Vermeer 0-1-0-2, K. Van Dyke 0-4-4-12, Ja. Vander Veen 0-3-0-6, V. Van Dyke 0-1-0-2, Spronk 0-3-6-12. Totals: 1-15-10-43.
AHS (3PT-2PT-FT-TP): A. Thier 0-1-2-4, E. Thier 1-1-6-11, Heitkamp 0-0-2-2, Lynn 0-5-4-14, Loosbrock 0-1-3-5, K. Slater 0-2-1-5, Meyer 1-4-5-16. Totals: 2-14-23-57.