SCOTT CITY — Two teams 15 wins apart and on different paths.
That was the matchup Tuesday as Scott City opened their defense of sub-state against 1-19 Goodland.
A year ago it was the Class 4A-II sub-state and this time around both teams had dropped into Class 3A.
And just as the odds-makers would predict, the Beavers got the first-round win with a home victory, 53-27.
But it certainly wasn’t easy for Scott City, who, as the top seed, had every bit of Goodland they could want in the first half.
Scott City (17-4) got off to a slow start, thanks in part to a Goodland defense that swarmed the Beavers with a variety of looks, including multiple presses that seemed to stump the home team.
The Cowgirls grabbed a 7-6 lead midway into the opening period and then Brooke Drennan hit a field goal at the buzzer to put the underdogs ahead 9-8 after one, increasing that to 11-8 two minutes later.
Then Scott City’s Kaitlyn Roberts drained a three to tie the game and start a 9-0 run, with the Beavers taking a 20-13 lead at intermission.
The real Scott City team emerged after halftime, outscoring Goodland 20-4 in a third quarter where they buried 8 of 16 shots, scoring on nine of 14 possessions.
They also turned the ball over only once, committed just one foul, and held the Cowgirls scoreless for five minutes.
In fact, an inspired defense ran the Goodland point-less streak to eight minutes, by which time they had extended the lead to 41-19.
Drennan led the Cowgirls with 10 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Scott City got points from nine different players, with Emily Smith leading the way with 10. Kaitlyn Roberts had nine points, all on 3-pointers. Emily Weathres and Macei Price each had eight.
Scott City was 17 of 52 from the floor (6 of 15 from long range). Goodland was just 12 of 32 from the floor and were out-rebounded 28-18.
Coach Sarah McCormack, obviously, wasn’t exactly happy with her team’s play in the first half, but the second half redeemed themselves.
“I felt like we were settling for shots from the outside (in the first half),” she said. “We weren’t strong on the inside. We just kept doing the same thing over and over again.”
That was the talk she had at halftime.
“You can’t be soft on the inside. You just can’t,” she said. ‘Whether (the officials) are calling it, they’re not calling it, that shouldn’t matter. You should finish strong every single time.”
Goodland’s game plan early appeared to be the aggressor, playing more physical, she added.
“If you’re going to let a team hang around for a while, they’re going to hang around,” McCormick said. “They certainly did that first half. I have to give Goodland credit for coming out ready to play.”
Letting opponents “push you around” can’t happen in sub-state, she said.
“You have to be on the attack all the time. I felt we were that the second half, but not the first half.”
Scott City was just 5 of 25 from the floor in the first half, including misses on a number of put-back chances. They were 12 of 27 in the second.
Credit her team’s press with forcing the issue on defense, which translated into an enlightened offense.
The win propels top-seeded Scott City into Friday’s semifinal round at Colby against the host Eagles, which beat Southwestern Heights 48-25 also on Tuesday. That game is expected to tipoff at 7:30 p.m., following the Lakin-Norton semifinal, both of which won quarterfinal games on Tuesday night.
Last season, the Beavers road an improbable late win streak by winning their Class 4A-II sub-state, earning a berth in the state tournament for the first time in school history and finished fourth.
Now at Class 3A, they look to make it two straight state appearances.
If Tuesday’s game is any indication, their odds look pretty good, according to a cautiously optimistic McCormick.
“Certainly, don’t take Colby lightly,” she said. “They’re on a roll and they want to win just as badly as we do. We have to be really smart, know who their scorers are going to be, stop their scorers, and be aggressive the whole time.”