PICKERINGTON – Following a 51-39 win over DeSales in the Division II Central District girls semifinal Monday evening, Mifflin coach Troy Taylor was adamant that the Lady Punchers were far from their best.
“We expect our team to do a better job,” Taylor said. “We have got to go back to work and fine tune some things in practice if we want to continue to play.
“We had four to five girls who evidently wanted a off day before this game and those things take a toll on a team.”
Mifflin (18-4), who advances to take on Big Walnut Friday at 6 p.m. for the district championship, was led by Amber Arter with 17 points, while Jalyssa Campbell and Janae Johnson each had eight points.
“We had a lot of balance scoring, but we can do better,” Taylor said.
Shelby Strain led DeSales (9-13) with 11 points, Erin Doone had 11 and Amanda Herron added seven.
Even with DeSales down just two points at halftime, Lady Stallions coach Chris Joseph believed the pressure from the Lady Punchers in the first half dictated the outcome of the game.
“When you look back at this game, the result was decided in the first half,” Joseph said. “We had a hard time bringing up the ball against their (Mifflin's) pressure, and they made us pay for it.
“We did a better job handling their pressure in the second half, cutting our turnovers down from 18 to nine, but we couldn't hit very many shots and the combination was just a problem.”
DeSales tied the game at 21-21 coming out of halftime on a jumper from Strain, but Mifflin proceeded to grab the lead back with a 12-0 run, led by Campbell hitting for five points and Patricia Mack bringing down four rebounds.
The Lady Stallions had seven turnovers in the third quarter.
“We knew they had seen us play before, so we decided to change things up and go with a little full-court press,” Taylor said. “We wanted to make their guards work extremely hard and try to wear them down. We wanted them to have to give the ball to different players and force them to make difficult decisions.”
Mifflin put away the game at the foul line in the fourth period, making seven of its first eight foul shots to take a 49-34 lead.
In the second game, Big Walnut outscored Bexley 31-20 in the second half to garner a 48-41 victory at Pickerington North High School.
Natalie Conkle led Big Walnut (18-4) with 16 points and a dozen rebounds. Tabatha Piper had 11 points and Jessi Tutorow added 10.
The game marks the 14th straight win for the Golden Eagles, which needed a 16-9 fourth quarter to decide the outcome.
Melissa Hart posted a game-high 19 points for Bexley (18-5) and Ashley Dennis contributed 13 points.