EMPORIA — The pointed elbows smacked into Jhasmin Bowen's stomach, the arms plowed into her midsection. The hands smacked against her arms. The bodies banged into her lean frame, hitting her legs.
Those elbows, hands, arms and bodies tried to disrupt her shot, disrupt her defensive stance, disrupt her ability to rebound.
Bowen ignored those disruptions in Friday's Class 6A semifinal game at Emporia's White Auditorium. She led Heights into today's Class 6A title game with her 17 points and 16 rebounds in the Falcons' 63-49 victory over defending champion Washburn Rural.
It's Heights' first trip to the title game since it won in 2007 and finished fourth the past two seasons.
Never miss a local story.
"She went up strong, she wasn't afraid, she knew that every shot she put up would go in," Heights junior Mary Sims said of Bowen. "She's unnatural some days how strong she is."
"She was the beast that we know she is," teammate Tahlia Pope surmised.
Bowen took out Washburn Rural's inside players nearly singlehandedly. In the first half, Rural's three post players were on the bench with three fouls apiece. Starter Kelsey Lewis fouled out in the third quarter. Maggie Holmberg (11 points) fouled out with 3:25 to go.
"We knew No. 42, I don't know what her name is," Holmberg said. "We knew she was really aggressive. We knew we had to box out and get rebounds.... Yeah, we knew she was going to be good. She came out swinging and we just couldn't keep up with her."
Heights (23-1) out-rebounded Rural 45-24 and had more offensive boards (24) than defensive.
A key to Bowen's dominance came in the game's first 41 seconds, when Pope scored the game's first points with a three-pointer from the right corner.
"That opened it up inside a little," Heights coach Kip Pulliam said. "That's all (Bowen) needs is a little. If she can get her hands on the ball, she's hard to stop."
After Pope's three, forward Kamisha Richard went to the basket and missed, but Bowen was there for the basket. On the next possession, Bowen made a strong post move, scoring for a 7-0 lead.
Pope finished with four assists and 13 points, but her most important contributions came on defense.
After a three-pointer by Alexa Bordewick got Rural (20-4) within 40-27 with 3:04 to go, Heights assistant coach Rajiv Foster told Pope to "make (Bordewick) your best friend over the next 11 minutes."
Bordewick didn't score again.
"She's the one who made their threes consistently, so we had to take her out of the game," Pope said. "Defense is really my specialty. I do defense better than I do anything else."
As well as Heights played, Pulliam wasn't about to call it his team's best game. He had seen moments here and there that need to be corrected for Heights to win its fifth title in nine years.
"We have one more chance to put a full game together," Pulliam said. "If we do that, we have a good chance of winning a state championship."