Lady Bulldogs will play New Bloomfield in sectionals Wednesday at Jeff City starting at 6 p.m.
New Franklin senior Kalani Pihana can’t explain it.
After struggling to find any rhythm during warm ups Saturday prior to taking the floor in the Class 2 District 7 title game against Harrisburg, Pihana couldn’t seem to miss when her team needed her the most in the second, third and fourth quarter.
Although the Lady Bulldogs never trailed in the game, leading at the end of each period, it was Pihana’s shooting from the outside that enabled New Franklin to pull away for a 56-50 victory.
New Franklin, improving to 26-1 overall, will now advance to the sectional round of the state playoffs against New Bloomfield, 15-11, on Wednesday, March 5th at Jefferson City High School starting at 6 p.m.
Pihana, who finished the game 5 of 7 from the three-point arc for 15 points, said everytime she shoots the ball she thinks it is going to go in. “I know it doesn’t but tonight I just didn’t think about it and when I don’t think about it, they go in,” Pihana said.
New Franklin basketball coach Chris McGowan said Pihana has been through an awful lot in four years with the knee injuries, not getting the amount of time that she has wanted at times so hopefully this is a nice feeling for her because she works really hard.
“I am really proud of our team but I would been proud of them either way,” McGowan said. “It’s a great group of kids and I know a lot of people say that but it’s nice to see the effort rewarded.”
Of course beating Harrisburg for the district title in softball in the fall and now in basketball makes it twice as nice.
But this wasn’t going to be easy and the Lady Bulldogs knew it. Although New Franklin beat Harrisburg by eight (38-30) earlier in the season in the Glasgow Tournament, Harrisburg dominated the first-three quarters in that game before a late rally by New Franklin.
New Franklin was also coming off a come from behind victory against Father Tolton in the semifinal round Wednesday night.
“I think the girls felt pressure Wednesday night and now we are living on borrowed time,” McGowan said. “We shouldn’t have won that game but since Harrisburg is a rivalry game I don’t think we felt the pressure or nerves I just think the girls wanted to come out and play this game.”
The first 16 minutes of the game proved McGowan’s point. While limiting Harrisburg to just one shot each trip down the floor in the first quarter, McGowan said the game plan early on was to get the ball down low to senior Jasmyne Boggs.
It worked. Boggs finished the first quarter with 11 points, which also opened up the outside game as New Franklin hit on 6 of 13 shots for 46 percent.
But better yet, the Lady Bulldogs also took a 17-11 after one against Harrisburg.
“First of all we knew we had to cross half-court and execute our half-court offense and early in he game we were able to do that,” McGowan said. “We got the looks we wanted and fortunately enough for us we were able to make the looks we were after. We wanted to start out throwing to Jasmyne and then see what they were going to do. We have to take advantage of her inside because she is a good player and if she is going to score like that we have to throw her the ball.”
The Lady Bulldogs did just that early on the second quarter as well with Boggs scoring the team’s first-four points to make it 21-12 with 6:12 left.
But then in a matter of seconds, Harrisburg went from trailing by nine to cut the lead to four (22-18) with 4:31 remaining after reeling off six straight points.
Enter Pihana. While getting the start for the Lady Bulldogs, Pihana went from throwing strikes in the fall to chucking threes, make that three threes, in the second quarter to extend New Franklin’s lead to 10 at 28-18.
New Franklin also outscored Harrisburg 18-9 in the second period while hitting on 5 of 7 shots from the field to lead at the half 35-20.
Coach McGowan said he also knew that Harrisburg would make a run at some point in the game against New Franklin. That time came in the third quarter and early in the fourth period as the Lady Bulldogs reeled off eight straight in the third to cut the lead to seven at 38-31 with 4:25 left.
Harrisburg also outscored New Franklin 15-9 but still trailed in the game by a score of 44-35.
“They wouldn’t go away and I thought defensively we let up a little bit,” McGowan said. “They got to the lane a little too easily and they did a good job of finishing in the lane. We were a little worried about their three-point shooting and I think they took advantage of that.”
Pihana did her part by hitting another three-point shot to start the fourth quarter. However, after going up 49-35 with 5:31 left, New Franklin hit a wall in the way of Harrisburg’s full-court press by turning the ball over four times during a three-minute span. During that time, Harrisburg reeled off 10 straight points to cut the lead to three at 51-48 with 2:14 remaining.
However, it was pretty much all New Franklin after that while outscoring Harrisburg 5-2 for the victory.
Pihana’s 15 points was tops on the team for the Lady Bulldogs. She also had three rebounds and two assists.
Aly Hundley finished the game with 13 points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal while Madi Lyons added 11 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals, Jasmyne Boggs with 10 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, four blocked shots and one steal, Derian Dodson with four points and seven rebounds, Aislinn Himmelberg with two points, four rebounds and three assists and Sara Montgomery with one point, two rebounds, one assist and one steal.
The Lady Bulldogs also finished the game hitting 16 of 42 shots from the field for 38 percent and 19 of 29 from the foul line for 65 percent.
For Harrisburg, Chloe Franklin had 11 points and eight rebounds while Hailey Lowrey added 10.