Paige Murray made her presence felt on both ends of the floor on Saturday night.
The 5-foot-11 senior totaled 14 points and five blocks in Shiloh Christian’s 60-32 win over Flasher in semifinal action of the District 9 tournament.
“That’s kinda what I’m known for on the team,” Murray said of her shot-swatting prowess.
“She doesn’t jump really high, but she has excellent timing … and she has really long arms,” Shiloh coach Darryl Bearstail said. “Having her back there makes it difficult for other teams.”
The win was the 200th for Bearstail as coach of the Skyhawks. His next chance to add to the total comes Monday night in the District 9 championship game against Grant County. The Coyotes held off a scrappy effort from Solen, 54-43.
“I didn’t even know. That was a surprise,” Bearstail said of win No. 200. “I’ve gotten to coach a lot of good players. Those girls make it happen.”
A fast start was key for Shiloh, playing on its home floor.
Murray drained two of the Skyhawks’ four 3-pointers as they built a commanding 22-8 lead after the opening period.
“I thought we started out really well. The girls were ready to play,” Bearstail said. “Defensively, I thought we did a lot of good things. We were able to get some good shots and capitalize.”
Murray sank a pair of early treys. Brooke Emmel and Olivia Martin also connected from deep.
“I just started that this year,” Murray said of her long-range shooting. “We do a good job of passing to the open person.”
Flasher made a second-quarter push, cutting the lead under 10 (30-21) on back-to-back buckets by Emma Marion and Hannah Roth.
But turnovers plagued the Bulldogs, who were charged with 24 in the game.
Marion led the Bulldogs with 12 points. Tymber Boldt added 8.
Shiloh had three players in double figures. Brittan Grubb’s 15 points were a game-high. Amber Stevahn added 12. The Skyhawks did commit 17 turnovers.
“There are some things we have to clean up. We weren’t really sharp. We had too many turnovers, but the effort was there,” Bearstail said. “There are always things you can do better.”
Murray said they’re not putting any extra stock in their 20-0 record.
“We don’t really go by that because when districts start it’s a new season,” she said. “We just have to focus on playing our best.”
GRANT COUNTY 54, SOLEN 43
Grant County's size prevailed in the second semifinal game.
The Coyotes opened the fourth quarter on an 11-3 run to pull away from Solen for a 54-43 win.
It wasn't an artistic beauty, but it matters little at this point.
"It's just find a way. It was kind of a strange game," said Grant County coach Nicole Bentz. "Both teams were playing hard. We finally started to get a few shots to drop."
Grant County, with a 17-4 record, faces Shiloh for the district crown. This time, the Coyotes will have their full complement of players. Taylor Roehl, a key cog for the Grant County, missed the Jan. 11 meeting against with an ankle injury.
Roehl was one of three players in double figures for the Coyotes against Solen.
"Taylor missed seven games and that's a pretty important player to be missing for that amount of time," Bentz said. "If she hadn't gotten hurt, it probably would have been No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the state that first time we played Shiloh."
With Roehl, Camryn Alt, Alexis Bentz and Coral Alt -- all 5-10 or better -- the Coyotes can match up inside with the Skyhawks' trees.
"Shiloh is very good. It's a challenge for us, but it should be an exciting game," Nicole Bentz said. "We'll need to play better than we did tonight, but it's one of those kinds of games you look forward to."
Alexis Bentz scored 15 points for the Coyotes, who started strong with 22 first-quarter points and finished with 17 over the final eight minutes.
Solen kept it interesting in the middle.
Consecutive baskets from Latosha Thunder Hawk and Antaya Thunder Hawk put Solen up 29-26 late in the second quarter.
But the Sioux scored just 14 points in the second half. Astacia Conica paced Solen with 15 points, including a trio of 3-pointers. Latosha (14) and Antaya (10) Thunder Hawk combined for 24 points.
Camryn Alt, a 6-1 sophomore, came off the bench to score 14 points for Grant County. Roehl was right behind with 13.
"We like to get as many people involved as possible. We have a lot of kids that can score," Nicole Bentz said. "That's what we'll need Monday night."
Before the championship game on Monday, a pair of region-qualifiers will be played. At 4:30, Solen faces New Salem-Almont followed by Flasher taking on Standing Rock.