MORGAN TWP. — On paper, Morgan Township and Marquette Catholic held sizable advantages entering their first-round sectional games.
At Tuesday's Class A Morgan Twp. Sectional, both teams proved why starting with the host Cherokees who knocked down nine 3s and forced 20 turnovers a 61-42 win over Kouts. On the other side of the bracket, the top-ranked Blazers blasted Washington Township, scoring the first 27 points of the game in a 69-10 rout.
For Morgan coach Scott Adams, the 3-point barrage was a welcomed sight.
"I was really happy with how we shot the ball," he said. "We know we're going to have to shoot the ball well this whole tournament to keep advancing and mission accomplished on shooting it well (Tuesday). Hopefully we can keep that going into the next couple of rounds. We told the girls to keep making the extra pass because it was putting so much pressure on their defense."
Up by just four after one quarter, the hosts turned up the heat defensively and rattled off a 10-2 run that put them up by 14 by halftime. Talia Bee had all 12 of her points in the first half for Morgan.
"(Kouts) was hanging around and slowing the game and that's not the pace we wanted to play," Adams said. "We decided to ratchet it up a notch and pressured the ball to see if we can get some easy baskets and when we sped the game up, it seemed the floor opened up and the 3s started coming."
The Cherokees (19-5) scored the first six points of the third and went on a 14-3 run and pushed its lead to 25 after Emma O'Brien knocked down one of her four 3-pointers on the night. The freshmen had a game-high 19 points and racked up seven steals.
"We started pressuring the ball harder," O'Brien said. "Offensively, we moved the ball really well and got it into the post and then we were able to kick it back out for open shots."
Fellow guard Kelsi Lemmons hit a trio of 3s and had 13 points to go with six assists and four steals. Sahara Bee added 11 points and 11 rebounds as the Cherokees advanced to Friday's semis against 21st Century.
"It was a good team effort," Lemmons said. "Sahara's great inside so when we get the ball into her, it opens up the outside for us and we just all work really well together."
Morgan Kobza led the Fillies (8-13) with 14 points, six rebounds and four steals. Sadie Leatherman also had 14 points.
In the nightcap, the Blazers (21-2) left no doubt scoring the first 27 points of the game pitching shutout quarters in the first and third.
"We came out with some jitters but I'm glad we settled in and started playing our game and got some easy baskets to get us going," Marquette coach Katie Collignon said. "Everyone always talks about our offense because the Nolan twins are exciting to watch and we have good guards around them but we focus on defense every day. The fact we were able to get on their guards and not even let them get a shot off was very rewarding to see as a coach."
Marquette led 36-5 at halftime and 52-5 after three.
"When your defense is that strong, you can go minutes without scoring because you know you'll be there defensively and again, that's why we focus on defense every single day," Collignon said. "Defense is what can games ultimately and we did a good job of staying focused there."
Emma Nolan had 25 points, seven rebounds and four steals to lead the Blazers. Sophia Nolan added 14 points and 12 rebounds while Morgan Crook 10 points. Marquette will play Westville in the other semifinal.
"A lot of our players got to play tonight and everyone was really excited for one another," Collignon said. "The other girls getting a chance to play makes it exciting for everyone else and it brings everyone's energy up. We got kids experience in sectionals and that's what you want, for everyone to enjoy it. Everyone's playing well together and that's why we play. It's a fun game."
Jillian Burton had five points for the Senators (10-12).