Saxony Lutheran girls basketball team reaches district final

Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Saxony Lutheran coach Sam Sides talks with his team during a timeout during the fourth quarter of their Class 3 District 3 semifinal game Monday against Woodland in Park Hills, Mo. (Laura Simon)

PARK HILLS, Mo. -- Woodland closed within nine points with a third-quarter run Monday.

But the upset-minded Saxony Lutheran girls basketball team coolly responded with back-to-back 3-pointers to seize the momentum.

"It felt good to get the comfort in there," said Saxony Lutheran junior Lauren Hecht, who hit the second 3.

The Crusaders pulled their second upset of the Class 3 District 3 tournament by taking down the third-seeded Cardinals 49-35 to reach Thursday's district championship game. Saxony Lutheran, the No. 7 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Clearwater in Saturday's quarterfinals.

"Once you get going in the game, it just kind of all goes away and you're just focused on what you're doing and just executing the best you can," Saxony Lutheran junior Regan Obermann said about her pregame nervousness.

Saxony Lutheran’s Maci Daniel maneuvers around Woodland’s Josie Long during the fourth quarter of their Class 3 District 3 semifinal game Monday in Park Hills, Mo. (Laura Simon)

The Crusaders jumped on the Cardinals early. Saxony Lutheran never trailed and built a 15-point lead entering halftime by starting the second quarter on a 13-2 run. Woodland scored consecutive baskets in the final minute, but Saxony Lutheran junior Kristy Winter snatched back the momentum by banking in a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to end the first half.

"We were feeling really pumped," Obermann said about the Crusaders' attitude at halftime. "We were just happy to be doing so well. We just wanted to keep it up in the second half, keep the momentum rolling."

The Cardinals chipped away at the Crusaders' lead with an 8-2 run to begin the second half. But that's when the Crusaders hit the back-to-back 3-pointers, and their lead never again sank below 12.

"They hit some big shots," Woodland coach Gary Poyner said. "They shot the ball well Saturday in their game against Clearwater. They shot the ball well here."

The Crusaders (10-15) benefited from their defensive pressure. Woodland committed 11 turnovers in the second quarter alone.

"We played them four times, so I know their players pretty good," Saxony Lutheran coach Sam Sides said. "We was trying to keep the ball out of [Josie] Long's hands as much as possible. We tried to make the other girls beat us a little bit. I think we forced them to do something they're not used to doing. We changed their roles a little bit. I think that caused them some problems."

Despite the sizable lead in the fourth quarter, Sides kept checking the clock on the scoreboard whenever there was a dead ball. He glanced up with 2 minutes, 39 seconds left and again with 1:06 left. He sneaked another peak with 38.6 seconds left, but never showed any emotion. He said his team matched his calm attitude about the Crusaders' second upset in as many games.

"They're about the most deadpan group of girls I've been around," he said. "Before the game or halftime, they just kind of look at you like a deer-in-the-headlights look all the time. I don't know what they're thinking. I assume they're listening, but I'm not 100 percent sure. They don't show much emotion. They're pretty calm people."

A few of the Crusaders shared hugs after the victory, but there wasn't much celebrating. The players hope to save that for after Thursday's game. The Crusaders will face top-seeded West County in the 6 p.m. district title game.

"We're going to have to go in wanting to win that one as much as we wanted to win this one," Hecht said.

Long finished with nine points to pace the Cardinals, who finished their season at 16-8.

"I told the girls I'm very proud of what they accomplished this year," Poyner said. "That's the most wins in school history by a girls team at Woodland. That's two straight winning seasons."


SAXONY LUTHERAN (49) -- Maci Daniel 2, Abby Hadley 9, Lauren Hecht 13, Natalie Mueller 9, Regan Obermann 11, Kristy Winter 5. FG 19, FT 7-12, F 6. (3-pointers: Hadler 1, Hecht 2, Mueller 1, Obermann 1, Winter 1. Fouled out: none)

WOODLAND (35) -- Kendra Pinkley 8, Josie Long 9, Kathlyn Cooper 2, Lindsey Craft 8, Lindsay Shell 6, Elizabeth Lincoln 2. FG 17, FT 0-2, F 13. (3-pointers: Long 1. Fouled out: none)

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