CARLISLE — Both St. Joseph’s boys and Conway Christian’s girls built early cushions and never really deflated Thursday in decisive victories in the first round the 2A state tournament at Bison Arena.
St. Joseph, the No. 2 seed from the East Region, powered to a 70-51 victory over Melbourne, the No. 2 seed from the North.
CCS’s girls, the No. 2 girls seed from the East, took out Buffalo Island Central, the No. 3 seed from the North, by 70-56.
The contest between the St. Joseph boys and Melbourne was a rematch of last year’s Class A state title game, won by the Bulldogs.
It wasn’t much of a rematch as the Bulldogs led wire to wire.
"We were familiar with their players and looking a tape, they did a lot of the same things," said St. Joseph coach Brent Bruich. "I don’t know how much it helped, but it sure didn’t hurt."
The St. Joseph boys will take on Stephens, the No. 1 seed from the South, at 2:30 today.
"This was the first state tournament victory by Conway Christian since it’s been in AAA and I’m proud of that," said CCS coach Ashley Nance.
Conway Christian (26-5) will play County Line at 7 tonight in the quarterfinals.
Also today, St. Joseph’s girls will play Hartford at 4 p.m.
The Bulldogs were quicker out of the gate and built a double-digit (19-8) lead that held true for most of the game.
St. Joseph broke fast by spacing the floor nicely so it could get inside the Bearkatz defense for free throws and layups. The Bulldogs’ defense also kept Melbourne from doing much damage inside.
St. Joseph (27-4) first broke away after holding a 10-6 lead at 4:04 of the first quarter. Marcus Kordsmeier picked up a loose ball and turned it into a layup. After a Melbourne miss, Jesse Light scored inside and Tyler Jones hit a 3-pointer from the corner to put the Bulldogs up 17-6. A putback after a turnover by Wade Beck gave the Bulldogs a 19-8 lead after a quarter.
A 3-point shot by Kordsmeier and a three-point play off a drive by Jones upped the Bulldogs’ advantage to 32-18 at the half.
"Our game plan is to get the ball into the paint and go inside and out," said Brent Bruich. "We want a touch inside whether we get a shot or not."
Two more inside baskets, one by Kordsmeier and another by Brandon Thessing, powered the Bulldogs to a 36-18 lead in the opening two minutes of the third quarter.
Although the Bulldogs scored only five more points the rest of the quarter, the Bearkatz (30-7) never got the lead under double digits.
"We knew they had a few runs left in them and it didn’t seem we could get a stop the third quarter," Bruich said. "We got some big baskets to keep breathing room."
Beck led a balanced St. Joseph scoring attack with 21 points. Light added 14 and Jones and Cash Schichtl 10.
Post Spencer Carraway led Melbourne with 22 points.
Conway Christian, which surged to a 10-point lead in the first quarter, peppered the Lady Mustangs all over the floor during a run in the second quarter in which it built a 37-17 lead.
Christina DenHartog hit twice and Cheyenne Wood once from 3-point range while Bre Hobbs scored from 8 feet in the lane. DenHartog and Wood added transition baskets to help the Lady Eagles build the big lead. Buffalo Island Central cut the deficit to 12 by half on with baskets by ninth-graders Cassidy Qualls and Brittany Fowler.
A 3-pointer by Micah Thompson and some twisting drives and steals by Fowler helped the Lady Mustangs (24-11) cut the deficit to 55-46 with 6:44 left.
A baseline jumper by DenHartog and back-to-back 3-pointers by Kelly Hays helped turn the Lady Mustangs back for good.
"This was a strange game for us because we usually have to fight having our big girls in foul trouble," said Nance. "For the first time in 30 games, our guards got in foul trouble. That got us out of our style because we’re an up-tempo, pressing team and we’re not as good with the half-court game. But we were able to adjust and maybe that will be good for us in the long run."
Hobbs led the Lady Eagles with 21 points. DenHartog had 16 and Jays 11. Wood had 10 and Mallary Clutts nine.
Fowler had 24 for the Lady Mustangs.