The Panhandle Conference tournament kicked off first-round action at Morrill where the third-seeded Lion girls roared their way to a 50-23 win over sixth-seed Hay Springs on Monday, Jan 20.
The win advances Morrill to a quarterfinal match-up with second-seeded Crawford at 5:30 p.m. in Edgemont, South Dakota on Friday, Jan. 24.
Fifth-seeded Edgemont upset fourth-seed Hemingford in game one, downing the Bobcats 44-31. Edgemont will now advance to host top seed Sioux County at 2 p.m. on Friday.
Morrill head coach Josh Guerue was pleased with his team’s effort and said the girls have been determined to keep the PAC winning streak alive and try to make it four titles in a row.
“I was really proud of the girls,” Guerue said. “We’ve kind of been on a mission here to play good basketball and I thought we did that tonight. There’s still some stuff we want to work on, but we’ve won (the tournament) the last three years and the girls are motivated. You could see that in the way they played tonight with their passion and I’m just really proud of that effort in improving on the things we needed to improve on tonight.”
Morrill’s defense stepped up and the offense ignited early after racing out to a 12-0 lead midway through the first frame only to hold Hay Springs to a single field goal from Jaiden Anderson and a free throw from Katelin Agler in the period and take a 15-3 lead into the second.
The Lion’s intensity kept up throughout the second quarter, holding the Hawks to just nine points, all from the free throw line and go to halftime with a 27-12 lead.
Guerue said the Morrill defense played solid throughout the entire contest.
“The girls did a really good job on defense putting themselves in good position,” he said. “The only thing we did wrong was bail them out and put them at the line. To Hay Springs’ credit, they hit their free throws. When they went to the line, they were putting them down. So, we have to do a better job at that. And switching between several defenses kind of kept them at bay and not knowing what was going on. But, it’s tough for a team to have to switch between four different defenses throughout that time and for our girls showing their basketball knowledge for them being able to do that.”
Morrill’s defense stayed steady to start the second half, giving up just two buckets from Joce Varvel and Anderson, and outscoring Hay Springs 15-4 highlighted by Ilycia Guerue’s eight points in the quarter.
Hay Springs’ Hannah Hoos hit a 3-pointer to start off the final frame, but the Hawks weren’t able to gain momentum as the Lions closed the door and advanced to Friday’s match-up with Crawford.
After outscoring its last two opponents 93-41, Guerue believes his team is getting back to form at just the right time of the season.
“The girls feel like they know what kind of basketball they can play,” he said. “We’ve kind of been slumping a little bit. We’ve been winning, but we know we haven’t been playing our best basketball. So, to know that we’re making steps in that direction going into this thing feels really good.”
Hay Springs was led by Varvel, Anderson and Samantha Toof, who finished the night with four points each. Hoos, Agler and and Mia Skinner each chipped in three. The Hawks finished 10-of-15 from the stripe.
Morrill was paced by Ilycia Guerue, who finished with 19 points in the win. Libbie Schaefer also finished in double figures with 11 points, while Shandie Hess added seven. The Lions finished 8-of-15 from the free throw line.
While the Morrill girls await the contest on Friday, the Morrill boys drew the top seed in the tournament and will play the winner of No. 4 seed Crawford and No. 5 seed Edgemont, which will be played on Tuesday at Sioux County High School.
Hay Springs 3 9 4 7 - 23
Morrill 15 12 15 8 - 50
Bailey Scherbarth 2, Mia Skinner 3, Hannah Hoos 3, Katelin Agler 3, Joce Varvel 4, Jaiden Anderson 4, Samantha Toof 4.
Shandie Hess 7, Libbie Schaefer 11, Katelyn Ott 2, Madison Mendoza 4, Brooke Hopkins 2, Jaiden Steiner 4, Ilycia Guerue 19, Paityn Homan 2.
Edgemont 13 9 10 12 — 44
Hemingford 14 6 2 9 — 31
Peyton Ostenson 3, Sarah Barker 8, Morgan Peterson 11, Elli Hollenbeck 13, Lizzy Tidball 7, Jenna Ostenson 2.
Avery Davies 7, Kambee Walker 4, Kyla Walker 2, Catherine Bryner 10, Makenzy Chancellor 6, Katelyn Varner 2.