By BRETT MARSHALL
LEOTI — With Spearville's starting line-up consisting of four players 5-feet-10 or taller, Syracuse girls basketball coach Mark Akers knew that for his team to have any chance in the Class 2A sub-state title game Saturday, his defense would have to pack it in and hope that the height advantage could be minimized.
It worked for just a little more than a quarter as his Lady Bulldogs trailed 11-10 two minutes into the second period. From there, it was a combination of both the inside strength and some timely outside shooting by the Lancers that propelled them to an easy 57-30 triumph and advance to the Class 2A state tournament in Manhattan. It is the first trip to the state for Spearville in 20 years.
"With their height we tended to hurry our shots and then we couldn't keep them off the boards," Akers said of his team's 36-30 deficit on the boards. "They are long with their height and it made it tough for us to get shots against it and we don't have enough shooters to offset that."
The Lady Bulldogs suffered through a cold night from the floor, making just 12-of-54 field goals (22 percent), including 2-of-18 (11 percent) from the 3-point line. Spearville's stingy defense limited Syracuse's top two senior scorers — Kylee Hedberg and Kamie Rash — to just eight and six points.
"We wanted to know where (Hedberg) was at all times because we knew she was a force inside," Spearville coach Lorie Stein said. "We wanted to make sure that (Rash) didn't get the opportunities to drive and shoot. We weren't sure how quick they were, but we found that our man-to-man didn't work, so we switched to the zone and it worked out for us."
When Hedberg hit her first basket just a minute into the second period, the Lady Bulldogs were within one and then the roof caved in.The Lancers reeled off 12 straight points and finished off the half with another five points with a response from Syracuse to take command 30-14 at the break.
"We were able to take control after I thought we weren't patient at the start of the game," Stein said. "(Syracuse) had shots that went in and out. We were fortunate they didn't stay down."
When the Bulldogs came out in the third period, Syracuse (13-10) had its best performance of the game as Rash hit a baseline shot, Dakota Gordanier knocked down a 3-pointer, Rash cashed in two free throws and Hedberg hit from down low. The run sandwiched one basket by Spearville (20-3) and Syracuse had cut the lead to 32-23 with 5:05 to go in the third stanza.
The Lancers took over from there. It was 44-28 heading into the final quarter and the final eight minutes were nothing but frustration for the Bullodgs, scoring just one basket with 1:50 left in the game and Spearville up 57-28.
"We came out with more pressure in the third, got some steals, made a few shots and got them out of position," Akers said of the Syracuse run in the third quarter. "Then we just ran out of steam."
Two of Spearville's tall frontline players — Megan Stein and Elle Stein — had 14 and 12 points and sophomore reserve guard Sarae Kitler popped in 13, including a pair of treys in the second quarter.
"When they hit those outside shots then, we were forced to spread our defense and then they went inside," Akers said. "We were trying to stop the inside game but then they hit those and it changed things for us."
For Syracuse, neither Hedberg or Rash reached double figures. Hedberg was just 4-of-21 from the field and never shot a free throw. Rash was 2-of-12 shooting.
Spearville 57, Syracuse 30
SYRACUSE (13-10) — Rash 2-12 2-2 6, Sharp 1-7 0-0 3, Martinez 0-0 0-0 0, Gordanier 1-2 2-2 5, Cashler 0-0 0-0 0, Nairn 2-6 0-0 4, Dowell 1-2 0-0 4, Graber 0-0 0-0 0, Housholder 0-0 0-0 0, Hedberg 4-21 0-0 8, Darnell 0-0 0-0 0, Gerard 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 12-54 4-4 30.
SPEARVILLE (20-3) — Hornung-Heeke 2-6 2-3 6, Slattery 0-0 0-0 0, Eliz. Stein 0-0 0-0 0, Helfrich 3-6 2-2 8, Strecker 0-1 0-0 0, Rabe 0-0 0-0 0, Kistler 5-7 1-2 13, Offerle 0-0 0-0 0, M. Stein 5-11 4-6 14, Doussa 0-1 0-0 0, Israel 2-3 0-0 4, Elle Stein 6-9 0-2 12. Totals 23-46 9-15 57.
Syracuse 8 6 14 2 -- 30
Spearville 11 19 14 13 -- 57
3-point goals — Syracuse 2-18 (Rash 0-4, Sharp 1-7, Gordanier 1-2, Hedberg 0-5). Rebounds — Syracuse 30 (Hedberg 8), Spearville 36 (Elle Stein 11). Turnovers — Syracuse 15, Spearville 20. Fouls — Syracuse 14, Spearville 9.