HUTCHINSON — First, Terrence Phox had to believe in January that his Collegiate girls basketball team could get better without injured star Ashia Woods. Then he had to make his players believe it.
Wednesday was Collegiate's best chance to show how far they went without Woods — and it was a culmination of Phox's beliefs. With a healthy Woods mostly a non-factor, the Spartans had other important offensive contributors in their 50-44 win over Riley County in the Class 3A quarterfinals at the Sports Arena.
Keli Dunn scored 17 points and Kati Broberg had 11, and Woods' eight points were meaningless in the best possible way — Collegiate hardly needed them to win.
"I was hoping," Phox said of his mindset when Woods suffered a stress fracture in her foot two months ago. "That was our plan. To be honest with you, I sold them on that. They bought into it, and I'm glad they did because now the proof is there."
Woods' injury set Collegiate back in the middle of the season but ultimately became a luxury because it changed for the better the approaches of many of her teammates. If Woods had become injured in February, the Spartans would probably still be regrouping and not appearing as comfortable as they did Wednesday with Woods not her usual self on offense.
Instead of waiting for Woods to take over, Collegiate's other players have become more aggressive, making such a takeover unnecessary. Dunn and Broberg combined for five three-pointers against the Falcons and never hesitated to carry a heavier load.
"If it hadn't been for (Woods' injury), we wouldn't have known what to do when she gets better," Dunn said.
Collegiate needed the strong shooting from Dunn, Broberg and others because its offense wasn't always in synch. The Spartans shot 16 of 29 but took 19 fewer shots than Riley County because they had 23 turnovers.
Collegiate had a leader in Woods and their hot early shooting calmed some nerves, but the Spartans never quite overcame their ball-handling troubles. That, like Woods' lack of scoring, can be seen as encouraging since Collegiate held a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in spite of their difficulties.
"When the lights were bright they did some very nice things, but we had to work through some things," Phox said. "I'd say this experience will help us when we turn back around Friday night and play again."
The only other deficiency for Collegiate was its inability to prevent Riley County, which had 12 offensive rebounds, from getting a second shot. Kelly Thomson, a junior who's orally committed to Kansas State, had 17 points and Rachel Rheaume scored 14. But Collegiate negated the Falcons' post players and forced Riley County to try 16 three-pointers.
" (Thomson) is a very good passer, so what we wanted to do was to not give her options other than to take shots," Phox said. "We wanted her to take contested shots. Not wide open, but contested shots."
Woods' provided value on defense, blocking four shots and grabbing two steals. Her presence in the lane made Riley County's guards think twice before driving, and when they did Woods made sure they were quickly trapped by her long arms.
"She can cover so much ground," Phox said. "They know she's an awesome scorer and they know she can do this and that, but she's very smart. She's always in the right position for help defense. Just her ability to be in the right position lets the opposing player know, 'I'm not going to try that way because Ashia's already there.' "
Hillsboro 40, Osage City 32 — Stephanie Sanders made a three-pointer with 2:30 to go to put Hillsboro ahead 37-30 and help them hold on to a first-round win.
Allie Faul led the Trojans with 10 points but suffered an apparent right knee injury during a collision in the fourth quarter. Osage City's Carly Spicer led all players with 14 points and eight rebounds.