HAMLET — That old adage about defense winning championships held for Oregon-Davis’ girls basketball team Saturday.
The Class A No. 2 Lady Cats switched up full-court and half-court defenses, restricted the scoring looks for Triton’s top shooters, and limited the No. 9 Trojans to 30 percent from the field in a 76-38 victory in the Class A Sectional 51 final at The Den.
OD (21-3), which captured its second straight sectional crown and sixth in the last seven seasons, moves on to a meeting with Morgan Township (14-10) at 10 a.m. EST Saturday at the Caston Regional. Top-ranked Fort Wayne Canterbury (21-3) faces West Central (14-9) in the second semifinal.
“Give Triton a lot of credit,” OD head coach Terry Minix, whose team defeated Triton 80-36 in the Bi-County final last month, said. “We made a run, and it snowballed for them; they had some foul trouble. The score is not typical of how this game went.
“We ran a new defense tonight,” he added. “We threw a lot of different things at the kids. I’m extra proud of the way they executed everything we wanted them to on short notice. It was a great team effort. Defense was what won the game.”
OD junior guard Jessica Avarone set the defensive tone with a pair of first-quarter swats of Triton 3-point attempts — one from each corner.
“Oh gosh, that was sweet,” OD junior point guard Ashley Campbell said. “That got the team going.”
Avarone finished with three steals to go along with seven rebounds and six assists.
“Jessica Avarone, other than Tara Kensinger, is probably the most athletic kid I’ve ever coached,” Minix said. “So many times I go from, ‘No! No! No!’ to ‘Great play, Jess!’ She had a foul, and I was worried about foul trouble when she went up, but she made a couple of great plays.”
Meanwhile, the Cats’ offense clicked on all cylinders, hitting at a 58-percent clip from the field, including 7 of 16 from 3-point range, and landed three players in double figures.
“We lost to a better team tonight,” Triton head coach Adam Heckaman said. “They’ve been phenomenal all year. We did a nice job early on taking away their penetration, but then they hit some shots from outside. You can’t stop all aspects of their game.”
Campbell scored a game-high 27 points and dished out eight assists to lead the Cats.
“Ashley, other than Aubrey (Minix) is the best shooter we’ve had,” Minix said. “The difference is where Aubrey was a shooter, Ashley’s our point guard; she creates for herself. She’s the captain of our ship.”
After Mallorie Jennings’ baseline jumper trimmed Triton’s deficit to eight points, 25-17 with 2:50 left in the first half, OD closed out the half on a 15-3 run to grab a commanding 40-20 lead.
“We hurt ourselves with not finishing,” Heckaman said. “We didn’t rebound for a stretch in the first half. We were down seven, eight, nine, 10; it was manageable, and then they made that run at the end of the half.”
During that run, Campbell drilled a pair of treys, converted an old-fashioned 3-point play, scored on a half-ending drive, and also dumped off for a Kendra Sauer layup.
“It’s just fun,” Campbell said of the run. “We have the mind-set that we have to be prepared. The feeling of winning is just surreal. When you win a sectional or Bi-County, I can’t explain how good it feels. It’s everything you’ve been working for.”
Junior forward Haley Collings scored 16 of her 22 points in the second half as the Cats built a 43-point bulge. Collings finished 10 of 12 from the field, all in the low post, and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
“Haley Collings does an amazing job under the basket,” OD junior guard Alicia McIntosh, who scored 14 points herself, said. “We wouldn’t rebound nearly as well without her.
“Tonight was one of those things where we just had to keep it up on defense,” she added. “Our defense was so good it went into our offense.”
For Triton, season leading scorers Shana Anderson, Taylor Hatfield, and Kylie Mason combined for just 23 field-goal tries — half of the Trojans’ shot attempts.
“We were basically picking and choosing who we were going to let beat us,” Minix said. “We switched and jammed on the screens. We started in man and went to more zone and got it up to double figures at the end of the first half.”
Hatfield and Jennings finished with eight points apiece for Triton. Jennings also grabbed five boards.
“Mallorie stepped up and had a great game,” Heckaman said. “We just couldn’t execute at the right time, and they gapped us.”
Triton rounds out a successful season at 17-6, highlighted by its second straight Northern State Conference crown. The Trojans now bid farewell to seniors Anderson and starting forward Breanna Lemler.
“I can’t even say what all they’ve done with this program,” Heckaman said of his seniors. “They’ve helped us build the kind of program we want to have. Shana won a sectional two years ago, and they’ve won back-to-back conferences. We can’t replace them. Their contributions are immeasurable. It hurts tonight, but they’re going to move on to bigger and better things. They’ll be able to come back to the gym, look at the banners and see what they’ve accomplished.”
• CLASS A SECTIONAL 51
Score by quarters
Triton: 7 20 24 38
OD: 18 40 56 76
TRITON (38): Allie Kann 1, Taylor Hatfield 8, Breanna Lemler 2, Krystal Sellers 4, Becca Kennedy 4, Kylie Mason 6, Mallorie Jennings 8, Shana Anderson 5, Jaela Meister 0, Hannah Jennings 0; Totals: 14 7-9 38.
OD (76): Taylor Kranenburg 4, Ashley Campbell 25, Alicia McIntosh 14, Riley Trott 0, Jessica Avarone 6, Kendra Sauer 2, Zoe Seese 0, Lexi Minix 2, Ashley Clark 1, Katie Marsh 0, Haley Collings 22, Lincy Jones 0; Totals: 28 13-20 76.
3-point goals: Triton 3 (Mason, Anderson), OD 7 (Campbell 4, McIntosh 2, Avarone); Turnovers: Triton 20, OD 13; Rebounds: Triton 25 (M. Jennings 5), OD 33 (Collings 10); Assists: Triton 6, OD 21 (Campbell 8); Steals: Triton 3, OD 8 (Avarone 3); Fouls (fouled out): Triton 20 (Sellers), OD 13 (none).
Records: Triton 17-6 (final), OD 21-3