SALINA — All Circle girls basketball coach Brian Henry could do was lift his hands in the air, shrug his shoulders and wonder what it would take to defend Cheney center Merissa Quick.
When Henry told his team to guard her from in front, the Cardinals threw passes over the top to her for layups.
When Henry told the Thunderbirds to play behind, that, too, didn't work as Quick went to the free-throw line 12 times.
Finally, Henry had to concede that nothing could be done — Quick was just that good.
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At times looking as dominant as she has been all season, Quick scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in Cheney's 60-36 victory over Circle in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A tournament. The Cardinals (24-0) will play Holton (24-0) on Friday in the semifinals.
"We thought we could guard her man-to-man, but she is so fast to the basket that our help couldn't get there," Henry said. "I guess we could have mixed up more zone and man, but she is so quick and they do a good job reversing the ball and getting it to her, I don't know if it would have mattered."
Not only was Quick a load in the interior for Circle, but Cheney also had Courtney Traxson and Kylie Patterson in the post and the two combined for 12 rebounds. As a team, the Cardinals brought in 30 rebounds, while Circle had 11.
"We've faced about every kind of defense this year," Cheney coach Rex Casner said. "It's hard to guard us and maybe we overmatched them a bit, but I thought we did a nice job of running our offense and getting the ball inside."
Henry suggested that if a team would bring more pressure on the Cardinals' guards, then maybe the post entry would be more difficult. The only thing is, when those guards are as good as Cheney's Ally Nikkel, then the task of stopping the perimeter people becomes as difficult as guarding Quick.
"Circle has been a good man-to-man team and they tried to come out and match up with us," Casner said. "But with Merissa doing a really good job of finishing shots and Ally did everything we asked her."
If it weren't for a 2-for-9 first quarter at the free-throw line, Cheney would have never trailed throughout the early stages.
At some point, Casner figured his team would make their charity shots and he was right — 12 for 17 the rest of the way — so he kept pounding the ball inside with his high-low offense.
Quick scored 13 points in the second quarter and was the catalyst to Cheney's 11-0 run to start the period, which essentially put Circle out of the game.
"Our guards did a great job of getting me the ball," Quick said. "We aren't selfish team and we want everybody else to score. Our guards saw that they (Circle) weren't really helping out, so they kept getting it to me."
Holton 54, Hesston 44 — Hesston turned the ball over 27 times in its loss.
Holton used full-court pressure defense to frustrate the Swathers, which translated into easy baskets.
"It seemed like their girls came after us wave after wave," Hesston coach Matt Richardson said. "After so long, it just became overwhelming for us."
Leading Hesston and all scorers was Mallory Schroeder with 20 points, although it came on 5-of-18 shooting. Samantha Short added 10 points.
As a team, Hesston made 11 baskets, one in the third quarter when Holton went on its game-changing 16-5 run.
"We knew they usually go on 8-, 10-, 12-point runs and they got it," Richardson said. "That stretch there was what we were trying to defend against and it ended up costing us."
"Taking care of the ball has been our weakness all year," Richardson said. "They had one of the best presses we've seen."