ORION -- For 80 seconds on Tuesday night, the Knoxville girls' basketball team dribbled around the perimeter as they searched for any crease to the basket.|
Each time the Blue Bullets tried attacking the lane, Sherrard's defenders cut them off.
Once a slight path did open, the possession ended with Knoxville committing a turnover under the basket. In a nutshell, that 80-second sequence illustrated Sherrard's 44-25 win in a Class 2A Orion Sectional semifinal.
"They were running their offense, and we were there," Sherrard coach Doug Swanson said. "We just did a great job."
At no point did Sherrard (27-3), which meets El Paso-Gridley in Thursday's sectional final after setting a school record for single-season wins, make the Blue Bullets comfortable on the offensive end. Every angle of the court was defended, with the Tigers forcing Knoxville into turnovers or contested shots.
In the final three quarters, the Blue Bullets scored 15 points.
"I'll tell you what, (Sherrard) is a talented team," Knoxville coach Matt Gibson said. "The one thing we haven't seen all year is their physicality and strength. They really do a nice job of exploiting weaknesses with their strength. They did that."
How well did Sherrard defend? Two weeks ago, Knoxville suffered a 48-44 loss at Harry Hunt Gymnasium.
Surrendering 44 points is a pretty good night. On this one, the Tigers limited Knoxville to 19 less.
"Coach Swanson definitely had a good scouting report," Sherrard senior guard Carly Adams said. "We were familiar with what they do. We played with a lot of heart and did what we needed to do."
Knoxville shot 31.4 percent (11 of 35) from the field. Other than a couple of layups, the Blue Bullets never had a clean look at the basket.
"It had to do with the type of pressure we were putting on," Swanson said. "We did just a really good job on the defensive end of limiting open looks."
Further proof of Sherrard's defensive domination was evident in the second half. Shelby Calderone, who scored a game-high 18 points, converted a layup to start the third quarter for a 32-15 lead. But the Tigers went exactly 10 minutes without a field goal.When Anne Winston ended the drought with five minutes left in regulation, the Tigers still had a 37-24 advantage.
"We were a little more familiar with what they were going to do," said Swanson, who received 12 points from senior guard Erin Barton. "Our girls bought into that and bought into the scouting report for how we were going to guard certain people. They did a great job of executing on the defensive end."
All that led to Sherrard setting a school record.
"That's pretty cool," Calderone said.
Another bonus is advancing to the sectional championship game for the third consecutive season. Sherrard has not won a sectional since 1990.
"It's great to be one of the (last) 16 teams in the state to play," Adams said. "But it hasn't ended the way we wanted. We're going to work hard and we know what we need to do to get past this sectional championship."
Retaining the defensive effort they brought on Tuesday sure would help.
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