Postseason nerves were not a factor.
Everything played out according to seed in Tuesday night’s semifinals at the Class 2A Hall Regional, and now top-seeded St. Bede is set to face No. 2 Marquette in Thursday’s final.
The Lady Bruins rolled to a 50-20 win over No. 4 Hall in Tuesday’s opener to punch their tickets to the final, while Marquette cruised to a 71-26 win over No. 3 Princeton in the nightcap at Red Devil Gymnasium in Spring Valley.
The Lady Bruins registered a 50-42 win over the Lady Crusaders at Bader Gymnasium on Dec. 10.
Marquette coach Todd Hopkins said it will take a strong effort, and a tough, physical game, from his squad to achieve a different result in Thursday’s championship tilt.
“We’re going to have to play our best game of the year and they’re going to have to be off,” Hopkins said. “But it’s not a seven-game series. It’s one game. We’ve got a shot. We’re going to give them everything we’ve got.”
St. Bede 50, Hall 20
The Lady Bruins ran out to a 15-3 advantage after the first quarter fueled by strong full-court defensive pressure that forced nine first-quarter turnovers from Hall.
The Lady Red Devils did not give up, however, and played the Academy even for the next two quarters to trail 29-16 entering the final eight minutes.
But, St. Bede made sure there would be no comeback in the fourth quarter as it outscored Hall 21-4 led by 10 points from junior guard Kelsey Thompson to close out the postseason victory.
“It was a win. You want to win in the postseason and keep moving on. You’re always nervous, a little apprehensive for that first game. Especially playing the host school on their home floor after they played a game (Monday’s play-in win over Bureau Valley),” St. Bede coach Tom McGunnigal said. “The girls responded well. They played strong.
“We had a couple turnovers that I think were just a little bit of nerves — a little uneasiness was going on on the floor — but hey, we still we won by 30 points. The girls played well.”
Thompson led all scorers with 13 points. Mo Dean added 12 points and a team-best nine rebounds for St. Bede (16-15), while Whitley Funsfinn chipped in nine points and Lydia Stariha added eight.
Hall junior Becca Herrmann had a double-double of 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Seniors Kari Cissell, Beka Dagraedt, Nicki Ernat, Val Hoffert and Jacquie Wallaert, who scored three points and grabbed three rebounds, saw their runs with the Lady Red Devils (9-20) come to a close.
“I thought we could have quit and we didn’t,” Hall coach Mike Struna said. “It was 29-16 late in the third. Of course you always want to win, but I thought we played about as well as we could for three quarters and then we kind of ran out of gas.”
Marquette 71, Princeton 26
Hopkins said he lost sleep Monday night worrying about Princeton, which gave his squad a scare with a second-half comeback bid in their meeting on Jan. 7 before the Lady Crusaders finished off a 16-point victory.
This time around there would be no second-half surge from the Tigresses.
Marquette (18-9) — which connected on 30-of-54 shots, including 7-of-13 on 3-pointers in the contest — dominated from tip-off until the final buzzer as the Lady Cru led 18-5 after the first quarter and 36-13 at half before making things academic with a 22-4 scoring advantage in the third to take a 58-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
“They honestly scared the heck out of us the last time we played them. We were up 19 at half and they cut it to 11 or 10 at one point and had chances. The girls remembered that and give them credit because they played hard,” Marquette coach Todd Hopkins said. “I couldn’t sleep, being honest, because I was worried about this game. … We hit shots when they went to their zone and I think we did a good job with their man and we moved the ball around and got scoring out of people.”
Senior guard Marissa Gama and sophomore guard Bailey McGrogan — who was 3-for-3 from behind the 3-point arc — tied for the Marquette team lead with 11 points. Freshman center Cassidy Murphy added 10 points and senior forward Alice Salt chipped in nine. Senior forward Riley Bongartz hauled in a team-best seven rebounds.
“It’s good to see for the future McGrogan and Murphy scoring. We know we’re going to need those guys Thursday,” Hopkins said. “With Murph’s size (6-foot 1) we’re going to need everything we can to slow Mo Dean down.”
Senior guard Mackenzey Wilson led Princeton with 12 points and added five rebounds. Senior post Emmalee Sears and junior post Zoe Mead shared the team high with six rebounds apiece to go with two and four points, respectively.
“I really had high hopes we’d give them an equally good game as last time if not better. The girls practiced real hard and we were prepared. I guess we weren’t prepared for that kind of shooting and that kind of play from Marquette,” said first-year PHS coach Kevin Hieronymus, whose squad closed out the season 6-22.
PHS seniors Sydney Hall, Lexi Marselle, McCaela May, Sears and Wilson closed out their careers in the blue and white with a return to the floor for the final two minutes of action.
Marselle finished with six points.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.