The Bunceton Lady Dragons and Pilot Grove Tigers basketball team looked the part of a No. 1 seed Thursday night in the semifinal round of the Class 1 District 8 Tournament at Northwest of Hughesville.
Playing all four semifinal games on Wednesday, the top-seeded Lady Dragons cruised past Northwest of Hughesville 63-33 while No. 6 Pilot Grove had its second impressive game in as many nights by blowing out Chilhowee 67-26.
In other semifinal games, the Otterville girls rallied from 15 down in the third quarter to beat Pilot Grove in overtime 63-60. Meanwhile, in the final game, No. 3 Otterville knocked off No. 2 Leeton 66-47.
The championship games, weather permitting, is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 22. Bunceton girls will play Otterville starting at 6 p.m., followed by the Pilot Grove boys versus Otterville at 7:30.
Of course there was nothing unusual about the matchup between Bunceton and Northwest. The Lady Dragons conducted business as usual by bolting out to a 24-8 first quarter lead and then outscored the Mustangs 19-10 in the second to make it 43-18.
Bunceton also put together a nice little stretch in the first quarter by reeling off 10 straight to go from leading 10-4 to 16-4 with 2:06 left. The Lady Dragons also hit a whopping 11 of 13 shots from the field in the first.
But even while leading by 25 at the break, head coach Mike Arnold was more displeased with the defense than the offense.
"Offensively I thought we played real well in the first half but defensively it was dreadful," Arnold said. "We gave up too many shots."
While blistering the nets in the first half on 18 of 25 shooting, the Lady Dragons picked up where they left off in the third quarter by reeling off 11 straight points during a three minute stretch to push the lead to 32 at 54-22.
Bunceton also outscored Northwest 18-12 in the third to up the lead to 31 at 61-30.
Meanwhile, with a running clock in place in the final period, Northwest actually outscored the Lady Dragons 3-2.
"I thought we played pretty well," Arnold said. "I was very impressed with our transition. We ran the break real well. We stopped them in transition and we communicated real well. We had four players in double figures and that makes us pretty hard to guard. It doesn't happen a lot but hopefully we will continue to do that. Tonight our offense picked us up and all year it's been our defense. It's a different change but hopefully we will get back at guarding people. The second half, however, I thought we did a great job of guarding."
Junior Rachel Emde led four players in double figures for the Lady Dragons, who improved to 23-2 on the season, with 19 points. She also had 10 rebounds for a double-double along with five steals and one assist.
Page 2 of 4 - Maddy Berwanger finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, two steals and one assist while Erica Kahle added 12 points, five assists, two rebounds and one steal, Sam Brandes with 11 points, eight steals, five rebounds and three assists, Julia Kahle with seven points, four rebounds, two steals and one assist, Deanne Emde with one point, five rebounds, five assists and two steals, Morgan Wieland with two rebounds and Lexus Chapman and Becky Fredrich each with one rebound.
The Lady Dragons also closed out the game hitting 9 of 15 shots from the foul line for 60 percent. Northwest was 6 of 12 for 50 percent.
Lindsey Blaylock and Jesse Zimmerman each had eight points for the Lady Mustangs.
The Pilot Grove Lady Tigers also had a great start against Otterville with six straight points on back-to-back threes by sophomore Melissa Schlotzhauer.
However after failing to score for the first three and a half minutes, the Lady Eagles rallied back with six straight to tie the game at 6-all. Then, over the final 2:22, Pilot Grove answered again with six in a row to go up 12-6.
While clicking on all four cylinders in the first quarter, the Lady Tigers fell off a little offensively in the second quarter. But even while Otterville outscored Pilot Grove 7-6 in the third, the Lady Tigers still led by five (18-13) at the break.
The threes were dropping like fireflies in the third quarter as Pilot Grove came out and hit four treys in the first-five minutes to lead Otterville by 15 at 32-17. Schlotzhauer and teammate Kerigan Wessing each had two during that stretch.
However over the final 3:23 of the third period, Otterville stormed back behind the shooting of Stephanie Oswald to reel off 10 straight points to cut the lead to five at 32-27 with 13 seconds left. Then, with time ticking down, Wessing drew a foul and nailed both free throws to push the lead back up to seven at 34-27.
The fourth quarter was just as wild as the first-three, with Oswald leading the charge for the Lady Eagles 14 of the team's 23 points. Otterville also finally got the game tied with 33 seconds left on a basket by Oswald to knot the game at 48-all. Then, with 10 seconds left, Oswald answered again to put the Lady Eagles on top for the first time in the game at 50-48. However, after calling a timeout with 9.6 seconds remaining, Pilot Grove came back and drew a foul with 3.6 seconds left. The rest is history as Wessing sank both foul shots to send the game into overtime tied at 50-50.
Unfortunately for the Lady Tigers, they never led again as Otterville came out and outscored Pilot Grove 13-10 for the victory.
Pilot Grove coach Landon Daniel said this was a really tough way to end a season.
Page 3 of 4 - "I'm still really proud of my girls," Daniel said. "This young team has come a long way over the course of this season which is only going to help us in the long run. We started the year 3-9 and then finished 7-7 and most of that is due to learning to play faster and more aggressive. We don't lose anybody to graduation this year so we have already set the bar high for next year and look forward to an offseason devoted to becoming better basketball players. I'm proud of all of the girls for stepping up and ending the season on a pretty good roll that will hopefully carry over to next year."
Melissa Schlotzhauer had a double-double in the game for Pilot Grove, who finished the season at 10-16 overall, with 28 points and 15 boards. She also had two steals and one assist.
Kerigan Wessing also finished the game with a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds along with four assists and three steals. McKalie Lorenz added eight points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots while McKenzi Schuster had two assists, one rebound and one steal and Katelyn Renfro and Rachel Lorenz each with three rebounds.
For Otterville, 19-7 on the season, Hannah Stone had 26 points and Stephanie Oswald 24.
As for the Pilot Grove boys, they also had a great start with 18 points on 7 of 13 shooting to lead Chilhowee by a score of 18-6.
While opening the game with back-to-back baskets, the Tigers also closed out the period with two straight threes from freshman Mason Schlotzhauer.
Meanwhile, in the second quarter, Pilot Grove jumped on Chilhowee again by outscoring the Indians 29-6 to lead at the break by a score of 47-12.
While scoring the final 23 points of the second quarter, the Tigers also had three players in double figures for the half. Schlotzhauer led the way with 19 while Kendall Kraus and Dylan Twenter added 10 points each.
Chilhowee senior Dillon Anstine was a one man show for the Indians in the first half with 10 of the team's 12 points.
Leading by 35 at the half, the Tigers came out in the second half and put it on cruise by outscoring Chilhowee 30-14 to win the game by 41.
Pilot Grove coach Rick Grunden said during district play it is important to take each game one at a time.
"Tonight we took on a Chilhowee team that is athletic with some talent to match," stated Grunden. Their best player, Dillon Anstine, is a threat on many levels. He can handle the ball and he has a genuine ability to elevate on the shot. We knew it would be difficult for us it contain him. We tried to challenge him, but force him to beat us on his own. That idea worked to our advantage. We did well moving the ball around and going to the basket. We will have our hands full as we play for the district championship on Friday night against Otterville. They are a team that continues to improve and they are a danger everywhere on the court."
Page 4 of 4 - Mason Schlotzhauer led the Tigers, who improved to 22-6 on the season, with 24 points. Kendall Kraus added 14, Dylan Twenter 12, Colton Glenn seven, Jake Leverton six and Brandon Brown with four.
For Chilhowee, Dillon Anstine tossed in 18 points.
In the final game, Otterville boys led Leeton 31-17 at the half and then outscored the Bulldogs 35-30 in the second half for the victory.
Ryan Benny had 30 points and Jake Gaskell 14 for the Eagles, 18-7 on the season.