CENTERVIEW — The Sweet Springs girls basketball team pulled away from Sacred Heart over the final four minutes of the fourth quarter Monday to win 55-45 in a Class 2, District 14 first-round game at Crest Ridge High School.
The Gremlins trailed 39-37 with a chance to tie or take the lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Sweet Springs senior guard Kati Viets stole the inbounds pass. Christina Higgins hit a pair of free throws on the other end, and that sparked a 14-3 Lady Greyhounds run.
”I feel like we were working as a team,” Viets said. “We just really pulled together and I know that we really wanted revenge from last year.”
The Gremlins got the best of Sweet Springs 61-38 in the first round of the district tournament last year on Sweet Springs’ home floor.
This year, the Lady Greyhounds did not let that happen, pulling away by hitting 10 of 11 free throws over the final four minutes and 13 of 14 in the second half. Sweet Springs shot 5 of 11 from the free throw line in the first half.
“We’ve got Christina and Kati are both good free throw shooters, and Nicole (Bright) shot the ball well from the line for us,” said Sweet Springs coach Boyd Jones.
Higgins went 8 of 10 from the free throw line to finish with 22 points. The rest of her points came on baskets in the paint, often coming from entry passes from Viets. Viets finished with 12 points.
“Her and I have been playing for a few years, and we kind of have a telepathy thing going on where I’ll know when she’s open,” Viets said.
Despite being at a size disadvantage with Sweet Springs’ front line of 5-8 Higgins, 5-10 Ashleigh Bright, 5-10 Nicole Bright and 5-9 Olivia Loges, Sacred Heart outrebounded the Lady Greyhounds 22-19 in the first half, including eight offensive rebounds.
”We just were trying to hustle really hard,” said Sacred Heart coach Shawn Bestgen. “I think we even tipped a couple away from ourselves in there a little bit. I thought we did a good job when we went to man-to-man to be able to stay with them.”
Sweet Springs flipped the rebounding edge in the second half, and the game finished with both teams pulling down 37 rebounds.
Sacred Heart shot 12 0f 48 (25 percent) from the floor in the game, including 5 of 24 (21 percent) in the first half.
“We were trying to get our corner shot,” Bestgen said. “Some of the kids weren’t on with their shot that had been on this weekend at home. They had some looks; they probably forced some shots at the wrong time. Hopefully, we’ll learn when to take that shot.”
The size of the Lady Greyhounds took away Sacred Heart senior point guard Gabbi Ebers’ favorite weapon, the drive. Ebers still scored 17 points, but nine of those came from 3-pointers.
“It’s hard for Gabbi to get going on a dribble drive from the top of the key when there’s three of them waiting in the lane for her,” Bestgen said. “It was easier to get her to the side, but that’s not her position. We could not quite get her going as much as we would like.”
Sweet Springs got off to a 13-2 start. After a turnover on the first possession of the game, the Lady Greyhounds scored the next five times they had the ball, getting a jumper from Nicole Bright, interior baskets by Ashleigh Bright and Higgins, and a 3-pointer from Viets.
“We just all played really well as a team and everything was going our way,” Higgins said.
Sacred Heart cut the lead to 13-8 by the end of the quarter thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers from Isabelle Wilhelm and Ebers. In the second quarter, the Gremlins continued the run, getting another Wilhelm 3-pointer at the end of the quarter to cut the Sweet Springs’ lead to 20-18.
“We have a tendency of missing easy shots,” Jones said. “During that period when we went from up 13-2 to they got back within two, a lot of that was missing easy shots. We’re so much bigger than they are and we needed to play with our size. We did what you needed to do, but we missed the shot. Late in the game, we started hitting the shot again.”
A Wilhelm drive early in the third quarter tied the game at 20, but Higgins and Ashleigh Bright answered with baskets in the paint. Sacred Heart eventually tied the game again at 28, but Sweet Springs again took the lead as Viets hit a pull-up jumper and Higgins added a basket in the lane.
Sacred Heart got to within two points in the fourth quarter when Ebers knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 39-37, but Sweet Springs went on a run after that.
Sweet Springs (16-10) will face Windsor in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Sacred Heart finishes its season at 13-12.