McPHERSON — The Buhler girls dutifully followed coach Brennan Torgerson's first-quarter directive to be patient offensively, and it helped the Crusaders turn a deficit into a 10-point lead in the second half.
The second order from Torgerson gave the Crusaders more trouble. Trailing by three late, Torgerson told his team, "Don't foul No. 22" — that's Cerissa McMillan, one of Salina Central's best free throw shooters.
Stephanie Patterson fouled McMillan in the back court and McMillan's free throws helped the Mustangs beat Buhler 48-40 in the quarterfinals of the Mid America Classic.
"She wasn't supposed to foul and we weren't supposed to foul No. 22," Torgerson said.
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Patterson wasn't supposed to foul because she already had four fouls and was Buhler's best hope for a win. Before she fouled out by reaching in on McMillan with a minute to go, Patterson made two three-pointers to trim Central's lead from nine to three.
With Patterson out, Buhler's offense was without a go-to player. The Crusaders didn't score for the final 1:04. Torgerson said he didn't give thought to sitting Patterson on defense even though she was close to disqualification.
"With only having one timeout left, she's got to be in the game," Torgerson said. "She's got to be in the game. She makes things happen for us defensively, too, so I felt it was a gamble we had to take."
Buhler fouling McMillan was a fortunate development for Central.
"We haven't shot the ball very well from the free throw line this year," Central coach Geoff Andrews said. "But I knew if we got the right ones taking them, we'd be fine. We probably only shoot 50 percent, but we're making the ones that count."
Central led 9-2 in the first quarter before Buhler took Torgerson's advice and calmed down. The Crusaders' guards, mostly Patterson, began taking the ball to the basket, beating their defenders and squeezing between Central's post players.
The Crusaders led 30-20 in the third quarter as Central missed 20 straight shots. That streak broke with a McMillan basket late in the third, and sparked a 16-0 run that gave the Mustangs control for good. Emily Kinder made two three-pointers to help Central nearly pull away before Patterson and the Crusaders rallied.
"To play that poorly and not to execute that well and have things not go your way and to only be down 10, we were pretty fortunate," Andrews said. "We kind of slowed the tempo a little bit because they wanted to speed us up. But once the girls got under control and put it in their head that they wanted to win, they were going to make it happen."
Salina Central12 8 10 18 — 48 Buhler6 16 8 10 — 40
SALINA CENTRAL: Kinder 14, Parker 2, McMillan 8, Briggs 3, Wiggins 4, Bennett 8, Cooper 4, Bujanda 5. Totals 15 (4) 14-27 48.
BUHLER: Winter 2, K. Patterson 6, Pankratz 2, Goertzen 2, S. Patterson 20, Williams 6, Woodard 2. Totals 16 (2) 6-10 40.
Beloit 39, Andale 36 _ The problem for Andale at the end of the game was similar to the difficulty it had the rest of it — the Indians couldn't get the ball in the basket. Not enough, anyway.
Andale missed two three-pointers in the final seconds and Beloit held on despite some shooting woes of its own. The Indians made 13 of 42 shots, offsetting strong outings on defense and on the glass.
"That's been our story," Andale coach Mark Kerschen said of the low shooting percentage. "... But bad possessions made the difference."
Kerschen pointed to two instances of the Indians turning the ball over immediately after grabbing defensive rebounds and giving Beloit easy layups.
The most troubling lapse for the Indians coach came with 19 seconds to go, when Beloit's Emily Pahls missed a free throw but got her own rebound. That necessitated another Andale foul, and Bailey Brown made two free throws to give the Trojans breathing room.
Emma Orth missed a three in the final seconds, but Andale got the ball back when the rebound was tapped out of bounds by Beloit. The Indians' last chance was missed by Erin Carney from the corner.
"Too many breakdowns at key times," Kershcen said.
Andale's only lead came in the first quarter at 7-6. It nipped at the heels of Beloit after that but couldn't do better than a tie, also in the fourth quarter. The Indians trailed by one point six times, including three in the fourth quarter.
Beloit made four baskets in the second half and scored four points in the fourth quarter. The Trojans survived thanks in part to seven free throws in the final quarter.
"We're in a little bit of a funk right now," Kerschen said. "We're battling and nothing good is happening. We're waiting for the next bad thing to happen instead of making something good happen."
Andale11 6 8 11 — 36 Beloit15 9 4 11 — 39
ANDALE: Last name only. Totals . Blasi 7, Martin 7, Boger 15, Macari 2, Carney 5. Totals 13 (3) 7-9 36.
BELOIT: Pahls 10, Brown 13, Shamburg 6, Kruse 6, Engelbert 2, Mealiff 2. Totals 14 (2) 9-16 39.
McPherson 43, Valley Center 29 _ Behind freshman Katelyn Loecker's play in the post and a defense that kept the Hornets off-balance, the Bullpups advanced to the quarterfinals, where they'll play Beloit.
No McPherson player besides Loecker was much of an offensive factor, but her performance gave the Bullpups plenty. She scored 21 points to lead all scorers and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. She was 7 of 12 shooting, while the rest of the Bullups were 4 of 22.
"She's very polished," McPherson coach Chris Strathman said. "She's skilled, she understands the game, a very high basketball IQ. Her teammates look for her. When she has position, they're going to look for her and she's doing a pretty good job overall of finishing."
Valley Center's best moments were in the second quarter, which it started by scoring the first six points to take a 12-8 lead. But Loecker scored the next seven points and the Hornets didn't lead again.
The tide continued to turn in the third. McPherson made two baskets in the quarter but grabbed nine offensive rebounds, allowing the Bullpups to pad their total at the free throw line.
McPherson also took advantage of Valley Center's foul trouble in the third. Three Hornets picked up their third or fourth fouls in the quarter and the Bullpups extended their lead. McPherson led by double digits for most of the fourth quarter and held off a Valley Center rally.
Karlee Canady's three-pointer pulled the Hornets to within seven with 4:04 to go. But Valley Center didn't score again and Tanner Hein helped put it away with late free throws.
Valley Center6 8 7 8 — 29 McPherson8 11 11 13 — 43
VALLEY CENTER: Ma. Wedekind 4, Candady 8, McCormick 11, Mayber 6. Totals 11 (2) 5-13 29.
MCPHERSON: Nowak 1, Hein 11, Buchman 7, Gaeddert 3, Loecker 21. Totals 11 (1) 20-33 43.