WASHINGTON TWP. | Kevin Krieger's halftime speech to his Morgan Township girls squad proved to be prophetic.
Up 18 points at the break, Krieger told his Cherokees that Kouts would make a run at some point in the second half and they would have to maintain their poise to survive it. Kouts cut the lead to 40-37 with 1:49 to play, but the Cherokees responded by closing out the game with a 9-2 run to defeat the Fillies 49-39 in the Class A Sectional championship game at Washington Township on Saturday.
"Coach had told us in the locker room at halftime that at some point in the game, they were going to make a run and we just had to keep our poise and have that confidence and swagger," said Courtney Osby, who finished with 15 points for the Cherokees.
"We said keep your poise and just do your job," Krieger said. "Boy they did that."
The victory gives Morgan Township four sectional titles, and it is the first with Krieger as head coach. The Cherokees (13-10) advance to the Caston Regional on Saturday, where they will face Oregon-Davis.
"We were 3-7 after our first ten games, and the girls never gave up. They kept doing what we've been telling them to do, and they persevered, and boy it paid off," Krieger said.
After two free throws from Kouts' Jayla Crump cut the lead to three, Morgan Township's Trina Coleman and Osby combined to go 7-of-8 from the free-throw line down the stretch, and Osby made a transition layup with 53 seconds left to make it 45-37 and put the game away.
"I think that settled it in," Coleman said of the basket. "I always look for Courtney. She's the fastest girl on our team. I just wanted to get it ahead, and I knew she'd make the basket."
The basket came after Kouts' Lexi Sippel missed a runner. Sammy Meschede grabbed the rebound for the Cherokees and got it ahead to Coleman who found Osby wide open under the basket.
Coleman led the Cherokees with a game-high 22 points, with 14 coming in the first half. She also had eight rebounds and seven assists.
"Good players rise to the occasion, and she definitely did," Krieger said of Coleman. "The whole team rose to the occasion tonight, but she's going to be a special player."
"We came out very flat, and you can't win a sectional championship coming out as flat as we did," Kouts coach Ron Kobza said. "We dug ourselves and 18-point hole at the half, and you can't do that."
The Fillies outscored the Cherokees 25-10 during a 12-minute span in the second and third quarters to get back within three. Sarah Clemens scored all eight of her points during the run.
Katie Parks led Kouts with 13 points. Crump added 11 points, and Clemens grabbed 11 rebounds, including seven on the offensive glass.
Sippel and Jenna Jessen, who combined to average almost 24 points per game were held to two and five points, respectively.
For the game, the Cherokees finished 19-of-39 from the floor, while the Fillies were 12-of-46.