By NICK McQUEEN

Special to The Telegram

HAYS Through the first two and a half minutes of Wednesday's first-round game of the Class 1A-Division II state tournament at Gross Memorial Coliseum, the top-seeded Ingalls High School girls' basketball team committed four turnovers.

It was the first-game, big-stage jitters Bulldog coach Roger Thurlow expected from his team, but also nerves he expected his group to shake off.

The Bulldogs eventually did. With senior Tara Whipple in command, the Bulldogs picked up a 54-27 victory against LeRoy-Southern Coffey County.

"I didn't think we were as good defensively as we have been this year," Thurlow said after playing his bench for much of the second half. "I think we were just trying too hard to do too much on this big court."

Doing too much was just enough to force the eighth-seeded Titans (10-14) into 13 first-quarter turnovers, as Whipple took control. The senior scored eight of her game-high 14 points in a 21-5 first quarter for the Bulldogs.

"You overdo it (defensively), you get exposed, and we had some miscommunication in the first half," Thurlow said. "Offensively, we came out a little scared, then Tara just kind of took over, and we got into a bit of a rhythm."

By the two-minute mark of the second quarter, Ingalls (24-0) built a 20-point lead, and was in coast mode the rest of the way. The Bulldogs led 34-14 at halftime, but Thurlow said the first-half run was what his team, which plays three freshmen, needed to get rid of some nerves.

"The three freshmen really kind of showed it, but (Hope Beach) got into a little bit," Thurlow said. "(Kaisha Batman) was active on defense, but was a little timid on offense, but that's to be expected of freshmen in a game like this.

"We got it out of our system."

The Bulldogs hadn't had the opportunity to do much scouting on their opponent. For the second straight season, Ingalls was pitted against a sub-.500 team at GMC, and came away with a first-round blowout.

Southern Coffey, though, came in with a distinct height advantage, starting 5-foot-11 and 6-foot underneath, but the Bulldogs' pressure defense was enough to build the cushion.

"I knew they were a bit bigger than us," Thurlow said. "It's hard to gauge anything on them not knowing anyone they play.

"I just figured if we could put some pressure on them, we would have a chance to turn them over," he added. "It worked pretty well."

By halftime, So. Coffey had 22 turnovers, nearly doubling the amount of shots the Titans put up.

Ingalls junior forward Rebecca Wyatt chipped in 10 points, playing just a short way into the third quarter, along with the rest of the starters.

"Shooting was a bit of a problem," said Thurlow, whose team finished just 40.7 percent for the game, 28 percent in the second half. "You don't make any buckets, you're not going to beat very many teams."

Whipple finished 7-of-10. The rest of the team was a collective 15-of-44. Junior Breana Isch led the Titans with six points.

Ingalls advances to Friday's semifinals to play Wilson (21-2). Wilson defeated Baileyville-B&B 53-42 in the second game of the day Wednesday.

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SO. COFFEY 5 9 2 11 -- 27

INGALLS 21 13 11 9 -- 54

LeROY-SO. COFFEY (10-14) Newkirk 0-3 0-0 0, Mar. Hegwald 1-7 3-3 5, Webb 2-9 1-2 5, Alumbaugh 1-4 1-2 3, Isch 2-11 2-5 6, Lyda 0-2 0-0 0, Deal 2-3 0-0 4, Emmons 1-2 0-0 2, My. Hegwald 0-3 1-2 1, Ma. Hegwald 0-0 0-0 0, Hall 0-2 1-2 1. Totals 9-46 9-16 27.

INGALLS (24-0) Tara Whipple 7-10 0-0 14, Rebecca Wyatt 3-8 4-6 10, Estrada 0-3 1-2 1, Batman 4-7 0-0 9, Galaviz 1-3 2-2 4, Beach 4-8 0-0 9, Andazola 1-3 0-0 2, Cure 0-0 0-0 0, Renick 1-3 1-2 3, Droste 0-4 0-0 0, Loewen 1-3 0-0 2, Tremmel 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-54 8-12 29.

3-point goals SCC 0-6 (Newkirk 0-1, Ma. Hegwald 0-2, Isch 0-1, Lyda 0-1, My. Hegwald 1-2); Ingalls 2-4 (Estrada 0-1, Batman 1-1, Beach 1-2). Assists SCC 3 (Three with 1); Ingalls 4 (Droste 2). Steals SCC 8 (Newkirk 2); Ingalls 18 (Estrada 5); Blocks SCC 4 (Webb 2); Ingalls 1 (Droste). Total fouls SCC 10; Ingalls 14. Fouled out none.

Rebounds - SCC 26 (Isch 10); Ingalls 29 (Wyatt 6). Turnovers SCC 27, Ingalls 16.