HUTCHINSON — After a ho-hum first couple minutes of the Class 3A semifinals against Hillsboro on Friday, Collegiate girls basketball coach Terrence Phox put in some substitutes and yelled, "Find some energy!"
Phox wasn't pleading, wasn't desperate, but he wasn't looking at the same team whose exuberance and nerves translated to maximum effort in the Spartans' opening-round win.
"What I noticed about the girls that were out there was that they were playing just a little timid," Phox said.
Collegiate renewed its vigor in the middle of the second quarter. Ashia Woods and Keli Dunn made back-to-back three-pointers and Collegiate led from that point on, winning 39-29 to advance to today's championship game against Jefferson North.
Woods was primarily responsible for Collegiate's discovery of vitality. Her teammates thrived Wednesday as the Spartans defeated Riley County in the opening round and Woods scored eight points and had one rebound.
Knowing it could win when Woods was mostly a non-factor on offense was an important step for Collegiate, but one it would prefer to only take once. When Woods shows the aggressiveness she displayed Friday, it ignites those around her.
"She feels the game out," Phox said. "She understands when it's time for Ashia to say, 'OK, I'm going to give my team a little confidence,' or, 'My team is playing with confidence, so let me do some other things.' "
Woods scored 19 points, taking advantage of mismatches in the paint and openings on the perimeter when Hillsboro played her to drive. She was assertive with the ball, taking eight free throws and often leading the fast break.
The spark Woods provided was most evident on the other side of the floor — she had 10 rebounds and was effective at making outlet passes that started Collegiate's transition.
"We played with a lot more motivation and energy and we're going to the championship game tomorrow," Woods said.
Hillsboro led 13-11 after a Callie Serene three-pointer with 5:34 to go in the first half. Woods made a three-pointer 35 seconds later and Dunn's followed 49 seconds after that.
The small surge turned into a big one and Collegiate finished the half on an 11-2 run before scoring the first eight points of the second half.
Five Spartans scored during their 21-4 run that spanned 10 minutes and motivated their defense.
"What we wanted to do in the second half was focus on our defense," Phox said. "I told them, 'For 16 minutes we need to limit their opportunities.' Holding them to a five-point third quarter is a pretty good indication of the girls actually listening to me at halftime."
Woods is Collegiate's emotional leader, a role she carries because of her experience. She doesn't express much on the court — the only show of feeling in Friday's game came when she jumped in slight frustration after a missed layup on which she was fouled.
Woods might have to start thinking about how she'll express becoming a state champion, a feat she's 32 minutes from reaching.
"We've played in a state championship game before (in 2009) and lost by six," Woods said. "We're not going to let this one slip away."