Bishop Miege girls coach Terry English is probably too old for video games, but he has the outlook of someone who played a lot of NBA Jam back in the day.
That game matched the best two players from two teams against each other and accentuated their most distinct traits. It was released in 1994 and Saturday’s Class 4A-I girls basketball championship game was a throwback.
Taylor Robertson and Mandi Cooks combined for 50 points for McPherson, not quite enough to overcome Miege, which got 49 from Johnni Gonzalez and Hunter Bentley in Miege’s 66-59 win.
Miege (22-3) won its fourth straight championship and 20th under English, who asked for everything from his backcourt duo. Gonzalez and Bentley carried the Stags offensively while limiting Robertson and Cooks during an important third-quarter stretch.
“I love that,” English said of seeing the game hinge on the performance of four stars. “We had the lead, first of all, and (our) two kids are really good free throw shooters, especially Hunter. She hit eight in a row and Johnni hit two. That’s 10 in a row, and it’s pretty hard to catch up when you’re hitting your free throws.”
Gonzalez and Bentley led Miege’s full-court press, so English didn’t use it much in the first half so he could keep his best players fresh. Miege started with pressure early in the third quarter and quickly erased a five-point halftime deficit.
The press served multiple purposes, including the offensive charge it gave Miege after it scored nine points in the second quarter. It also neutralized Cooks, a forward who ended up with the ball near Miege’s basket after in-bound passes and struggled to advance it.
McPherson’s turnovers kept Robertson from getting involved. She took one shot in the third quarter and missed it, though she did make four free throws.
“That’s what we do best – we press,” English said. “I just didn’t want to get them too tired, that’s why we were getting out of it. …But they lasted, they did a great job. If you can hold (Robertson) and keep (Emma Yowell) from shooting threes, offensively they struggle a little bit.”
Miege led by two after the third quarter and took control early in the fourth, again behind the press. Bentley converted a three-point play with 6:55 to play, then stole the in-bound pass and scored again.
Those plays happened during a 15-5 Miege run and enabled the final minutes to be decided by the free throw shooting of Bentley and Gonzalez, who combined to make 22 of 26 for the game.
“We weren’t just surviving,” McPherson coach Chris Strathman said. “They’d make a good run on us, I guess. There are things we’d like to do different, but scheme-wise, they did what we wanted them to do. We just had a couple of mental breakdowns.”
KC Piper 66, Circle 39 — Circle didn't lead for the final 31 minutes of the third-place game.
Once Circle (21-4) fell behind, there wasn't much recourse. Piper dominated the matchups, with five players 5-foot-10 or taller, and controlled the areas in which that was an advantage.
Piper (23-2) had 17 second-chance points from 17 offensive rebounds and scored almost as many points in the paint — 36 — as Circle scored anywhere. Maya Morrow had 12 points and 13 rebounds for Piper, which got 22 points from Ryan Cobbins.
Circle endured its second straight poor shooting performance, making 13 of 42 shots after making 20 percent in Friday's semifinal loss to Bishop Miege. Carissa Beck scored 14 points for Circle, which trailed by double digits for the final 14:18.
Each of Circle's losses came to the teams that finished in the 4A-I top three -- two to McPherson and Friday's defeat against Miege.