KNOX — Hanover Central did everything it could to slow down Knox’s resurgent girls basketball program Friday night, but time ultimately ran out on the Wildcats.
Hanover Central coach Luis Roldan devised a plan to slow the game down and keep the Redskins out of the lane, but Lindsey Simpson and her teammates finally broke through after a sluggish first quarter to pull away with a 53-33 victory in the Class 3A Knox sectional semifinals.
The Redskins (20-4), winners of just eight games last year will host Twin Lakes in tonight’s championship game.
“We wanted to slow it down and make them work, try to make them hit shots from outside,” Roldan said. “It’s not a style that we’ve played a lot this year and not something we’re really comfortable with.”
Knox beat Hanover Central by 27 points in a tournament in late December and Roldan wanted to try and keep the Redskins from pulling ahead early by taking the air out of the ball. The Wildcats won the opening tip and didn’t make a move toward the basket for the first 50 seconds of the game. The first possession ended as the Redskins poked the ball free and Simpson drove the length of the floor for a basket.
Simpson scored Knox’s first three baskets of the game and had 12 of her game-high 16 points in the first half. The junior added five rebounds, four assists and five steals while playing deep into the fourth quarter.
“She’s an excellent player, someone who is really good in the open floor,” Roldan said. “That’s exactly what we were trying to stop. We wanted them to have to hit shots from outside.”
Hanover Central sophomore Amanda Schreiber scored seven of her game-high nine points in the first quarter. The Redskins started clicking in the second quarter, scoring the first 19 points of the frame before Hanover’s Sarah Spangler finished an offensive putback just before the buzzer sounded to cut the deficit to 28-9 going into the half.
“We got some good looks in the first quarter, but we missed some bunnies as well,” Roldan said. “That’s been consistent for us this season.”
The Wildcats (11-17) scored four quick points coming out of the break, but Knox rattled off the next 17 points and led by as many as 33 points going into the fourth quarter.
Hanover Central received a scare late in the game as Schreiber collided with two players while cutting under the basket and crumpled to the ground with a knee injury. Schreiber made her way to the bench and let out several screams before she was carried from the court. The sophomore later left the arena under her own power with an ice pack around her left knee.
Hanover Central’s reserves closed the game strong, erasing 13 points off the deficit down the stretch as freshman Nevaeh Govert had four points and four steals in the final two minutes.
Friday night marked the final game for four Hanover Central seniors, including Spangler and fellow starters Julianna Bartoszek and Brianna Kickert along with reserve Emily Burns.
“No one on this team quit,” Roldan said. “I’m never going to stop coaching them and they’re never going to stop playing. Every single one of them would run through a door for me if I asked, and I’d do the same for them.”