HINCKLEY – Paw Paw missed only three shots during the second quarter of Tuesday night’s regional semifinal against Hinckley-Big Rock.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they were only able to attempt five.
H-BR’s swarming defense forced 12 turnovers in the second quarter alone, and 30 for the game as the Royals cruised to a 45-18 win in the first semifinal matchup of the Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional.
The Royals will play Indian Creek, which defeated Amboy, 51-37, in the night’s other semifinal matchup, Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Hinckley for the regional championship.
“We told each other to stay focused and this was for a regional game so to pick it up, play how we wanted to,” H-BR senior forward Abbie Tosch said. “We got the energy, got [that mentality] inside us and pulled it out.”
The Royals (16-12) started slow offensively, but picked it up after the first eight minutes.
Lauren Paver scored all nine of her points in the second quarter, including the final seven points of the half to help the Royals to a 20-8 halftime lead.
H-BR had all five starters score and got valuable minutes off the bench from its four reserves.
“Overall I think we just passed and caught the ball a lot better too,” H-BR coach Greg Burks said. “We did a nice job managing the game, we were content to run offense, we were content to take time off the clock, but we weren’t just looking to totally delay.
“I thought we got things spread out, had some good movement, limited turnovers to extend the lead.”
The Royals’ defense continued to put pressure on Paw Paw in the second half. H-BR forced at least six turnovers in each quarter and those possessions often led to easy points in transition.
“Fortunately we came out and did an even better job defensively in the second half,” Burks said. “I think that’s the effort that we’ve been waiting to see for an entire season and over the last four or five games we’ve seen it for the most part.”
Tosch led the Royals with 13 points while Paver had nine and Jacqueline Madden added eight. Madden and Tosch each had four steals while Paver recorded three.
H-BR, which won back-to-back state championships in 2009 and 2010, and is on a run of six consecutive regional championships. The Royals will try to make it seven in a row on Thursday.
“That would mean so much,” Tosch said. “We are excited to play here and especially to be home. That would mean so much to us to win.”
Indian Creek battles past Amboy: Indian Creek coach Paul Muchmore could recall only one stretch this season that rivaled the nine-minute run Indian Creek had in the first half against Amboy.
The Timberwolves outscored Amboy by 18 points and never trailed after the first quarter in a relatively drama-free, 51-37 victory in the semifinals of the Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional.
Knotted at 10-10, Ariel Russell started Indian Creeks’ run with back-to-back three-pointers at the end of the first quarter. Five different Timberwolves scored during the stretch and Kate Thuestad’s three-pointer off a feed from Madison Russell helped Indian Creek (14-12) to a 30-13 halftime lead.
“I think everybody did a great job today,” Muchmore said. “We’ve been struggling shooting. When Ariel hit those couple threes I knew we were going to have a pretty good game.”
Amboy made a slight push in the fourth quarter, but could never cut the Indian Creek lead to single digits. Freshman Jacklyn Bouma’s three-pointer from the wing off a pass from Samantha Mosley pushed the Timberwolves lead to 45-31 with just more than four minutes to play.
Mosley led the Timberwolves with 17 points while Ariel Russell finished with 10. Josie Diehl had five points, 11 rebounds and two steals in the win.
Indian Creek hasn’t won a girls basketball regional championship since 1998. But after splitting two games against H-BR during the regular season, the Timberwolves are confident going into Thursday.
“As a team, as a school that would be a great achievement,” Ariel said. “After having last week off with practicing and having time to get ready tomorrow, I think we’ll be ready.”