KOUTS | With chaos unfolding around her, Trina Coleman was the calm in the midst of the storm for Morgan Township.
Big surprise there, huh?
"Great players come through in the clutch," coach Kevin Krieger said after Coleman's six fourth-quarter points helped the Cherokees fend off Kouts 36-29 in Friday's Class A Kouts Sectional semifinals. "She was very poised and that translates to the other girls. She just goes about her business."
Morgan will face Washington Township, a 62-28 winner over Marquette Catholic, in tonight's final.
A dozen second-half turnovers were almost the undoing of the Cherokees (14-6), but Kouts (13-9) just couldn't turn its defensive pressure into offense. It had the ball three times in the last two-plus minutes needing a 3 to tie, but came up empty.
"We kind of panicked," Kouts coach Ron Kobza said. "We weren't setting screens or going down low. We weren't running any offensive sets."
Morgan scored 10 straight in the first quarter to seize control behind eight points by freshman Kameron Stanko. Classmate Kia Holder snagged all eight of her caroms in the first half.
"How about our two freshmen?" Krieger said. "We've asked them to play big roles for us, to adjust to the varsity level. It's been a year-long process. They played really well."
Kouts was in chase mode all game after the 12-2 deficit and couldn't overcome its woeful shooting (7-42).
"I'm real proud of the effort, battling back. That's what they've done all season. That's what's special about this team," Kobza said. "We just didn't hit shots. We didn't hit free throws. We didn't box out well the whole game. We thought we were prepared for their (2-2-1) press, but we didn't run our press break like we're supposed to. we weren't moving the ball or rotating to help the girl with the ball."
Coleman's 13 points topped Morgan. Jayla Crump led all scorers with 14 for Kouts.
"Survive and advance," Krieger said.
In the opener, Washington ran off 14 points after Marquette scored the opening basket and cruised from there.
"At times, we weren't focused and part of the credit for that goes to Marquette. They battled the entire game," Washington coach Chris Tomcsi said. "These moments are special. They don't occur very often so you want to enjoy them, but We had a job to do to come and win the sectional and we're in position to do it."
Heather Burton put up 13 points, six rebounds and five steals for Washington in a little over a half of action.
"She's been doing it all year for us," Tomcsi said. "Sometimes, it's her shooting. Sometimes, it's her distributing the ball. I feel like she's an all-area caliber player. If I had five of her on the floor, we'd be a tough team to beat."
Sammie Higgins added 12 points for the Senators (15-5). Marquette committed 31 turnovers, 21 in the first half, and shot 25 percent. Colleen Falk scored eight for the Blazers (4-14).
"Turnovers killed us. That was the game for us," Marqette coach Abby Skube said. "But they didn't put their heads down at all. I didn't see what I saw the first half of the season. I saw what they're capable of. I saw heart, desire, a passion for the game. That's something you can't coach. That builds within a player. That's the most satisfying thing as a coach."