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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, February 04, 2017 7:24 pm

Defense pushes Concordia girls past Dwenger

Greg Jones | The Journal Gazette

Concordia used a tried and true formula in claiming its third straight girls basketball sectional title.

The Cadets were again tough on defense and made just enough free throws to hold off Bishop Dwenger 47-42 in the championship game of the Class 3A Concordia Sectional on Saturday.

"It means a lot," senior Shania Kelly said of the sectional title. "For some, it is the first time getting one. This is a three-peat for me, so it is a true blessing."

No. 6 Concordia (20-4) will play No. 8 Tippecanoe Valley (22-4) at noon Saturday in the regional semifinals at Columbia City. No. 4 Heritage Christian (19-6) and Norwell (16-9) will play in the first semifinal at 10 a.m. The championship is scheduled for 8 p.m.

Concordia was only 12 of 19 from the free-throw line, but made them when it counted the most.

"We made free throws at the end," Concordia coach Dave Miller said. "We hit them when we needed to, so that's a good thing to finish a game that way. We made a couple of bad kinda forced, but kinda unforced errors down the stretch. You get in that pressure situation and the decision making ... so the mind kinda goes but they hung in there and battled hard."

Kelly made six of eight from the line for the Cadets.

"We just had to stay disciplined and focused," Kelly said. "Dwenger is a very good team. We had to go out and go hard and keep our minds on the court."

The Saints (14-8) cut the deficit to three points, 45-42, on a long 3-pointer from Ellen Ross with 20 seconds remaining. 

Concordia has won six straight games, but Dwenger is the first opponent to break 35 points since a 50-45 Cadets' loss to South Side on Jan. 13. Concordia had allowed 13 and 22 points in its previous two games, the regular-season finale (65-13 over North Side) and the sectional opener (37-22 over Angola). 

Concordia led 35-25 in the fourth before Dwenger began to chip away at the lead.

"We just had to be clutch on defense because we turned the ball over a few times, so we knew we had to pick it up on defense," sophomore Skylare Starks said of the Cadets' play late in the game. "We know defense is our strength, so we just had continue to do that, and we came out with the win."

Starks had 16 points for the Cadets, Carissa Garcia 11 and Kelly 10.

The Cadets had easily dispatched of the Saints 47-34 during the regular season. 

"If we don't make free throws, they beat us," Miller said. "Dwenger has improved a lot from where they were earlier in the season. They have come a long way, and it was definitely a challenge."

Ross led Dwenger with 17 points, while Jayda Smith added 11.

Tied at 22 in the third, Concordia appeared to be on its way to the easy win when an 8-1 run helped pushed the margin to 30-23 after three quarters.