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Travis Morisse/The Hutchinson News Garden Plain's Alli Heimerman puts up a shot over Riley County's Madison Vargo in the third quarter of the 3A quarterfinal game Wednesday at the Sports Arena in Hutchinson. Travis Morisse/Hutchinson News |

3A girls: Garden Plain shoots past Riley County

Published March 6 at 10:32 p.m. | Last updated March 6 at 10:33 p.m.

Even in hindsight, Garden Plain coach Sarah McCormick said her preference was for her team not to get into a three-point shooting contest with Riley County in Wednesday’s Class 3A girls basketball quarterfinal.

This after a 6-of-8 performance beyond the arc helped propel the Owls to a 57-34 runaway victory at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.

"It worked out well," McCormick said after her team finished 8 of 10 on three-pointers compared to Riley County’s 6 of 22. "I feel like our post players are good enough that I’d put them up against anybody. I told them don’t be afraid to take the shot, but after we get our posts a look."

Dead-eye three-point shooting carried the Owls to a nine-point halftime lead and the inside game delivered in the second half as Garden Plain (23-1) steadily pulled away and into Friday’s 3 p.m. semifinal against Russell (19-5), which knocked off third-seeded Caney Valley 50-42.

The blowout also helped erase the bitter taste still left with the Owls after last year’s 54-49 overtime loss in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Silver Lake.

"We walked off last year and we were heartbroken," McCormick said. "We knew that we deserved to be here, just as Silver Lake did. We just said this year, ‘Let’s finish it. We deserve to be there, let’s play better.’ "

The argument could be made that the Owls can’t play much better than they did in handily disposing of perennial contender Riley County (17-6). After a somewhat sluggish start, a trio of 3-pointers from Natalie Dooley and Allie Heimerman got the Owls going and they never really cooled off.

Heimerman wound up 4 of 5 beyond the arc on her way to a game-high 16 points, while Dooley nailed 3 of 4 threes and finished with 11. Their marksmanship opened things up for Cassidy Haukap, who hit her first six shots of the second half and ended with 13 points.

"When we’re feeling it, we’re going to put it up," Heimerman said. "If that’s not working, we try something else. We’re pretty well rounded."

That includes defensively, where Garden Plain was just as good, harassing Riley County in every phase. In addition to holding the Falcons to 11-of-43 shooting, the Owls owned the boards (32-27) and forced 13 turnovers.

"They were aggressive; they were physically strong; they scored inside and out," Riley County coach Harold Oliver said. "They got their hands on a lot of balls and we haven’t had that much difficulty passing the ball. They play long."

Makayla Vargo led the Falcons with 13 points, but the Owls held leading scorer Katelyn Thomson scoreless (0 of 9).

Hillsboro 53, Holcomb 45 — Nathan Hiebert tries to be a patient man. Yet even his patience was being tested by his Hillsboro team. The Trojans repeatedly got the shots Hiebert’s come to expect from his offense, but they weren’t hitting them.

"I was pleased with what we were doing, so that gave me a lot of hope," Hiebert said. "We didn’t score as well as we wanted early on, but we were getting the shots we were supposed to be getting."

But as a tourney-tested team, Hillsboro hit its stride when it needed to. Trailing the bulk of the game, the Trojans (22-2) smacked Holcomb with a 23-12 fourth quarter to advance to Friday’s 6:30 p.m. semifinal against top-seeded and undefeated Burlington, which survived a big-time scare from Sabetha in a 48-46 win.

Hillsboro’s usual shooting stars — Tena Loewen, Addie Lackey and Dana Bina — never really found a rhythm, but delivered in the clutch. Bina’s three-point play at the 6:22 mark of the fourth quarter gave Hillsboro its first lead since an early 10-9 edge, and a minute later Lackey buried the Trojans’ only 3-pointer of the night.

Loewen then finished Holcomb off at the free-throw line, going 10 of 10 at the charity stripe in the final period to finish with a team-high 14 points. Lackey added 13 and Bina had 10.

"That’s one of the benefits of being here five years in a row," Hiebert said of the state tourney. "These girls have the experience and understand that every game there’s going to be some kind of adversity and it’s how you handle that."

Hot shooting from three-point range helped Holcomb build a lead in the first half, though it never got bigger than six. The Longhorns hit 5 of 10 threes in the first half, but managed only two in the second half.

Katie Pfeifer and Taylor Deniston each had 14 for the Longhorns (19-5).