By KEVIN THOMPSON
JETMORE — Most everything went according to plan at the girls Class 1A-Divison I semifinals Thursday night at the Jetmore High School gym.
The top-ranked team won easily over the fourth seed, and the two and three seeds went right down to the wire.
The 17-3 Satanta Lady Indians, seeded first and ranked No. 6 in the state, powered their way past host Hodgeman County, 59-42, in the evening's opening game, while third-seeded Minneola fought off a game Deerfield team 60-57 in the nightcap, setting up a Saturday night battle for a trip to the state tournament next week in Hays.
In the first game, Satanta set the tone immediately, capitalizing on some early miscues.
The Lady Longhorns turned it over four of their first five possessions, leading to eight of Satanta's first 11 points, and the Indians took an 18-8 lead after one.
They extended the lead to 13 at the half and to 20 at the 4:38 mark in the third.
Down the stretch in the final three minutes of the game, all of the Indians' final 10 points came at the line, where they were 10-of-12 in that run.
For the game, Satanta was 24-of-32 from the charity stripe, while Hodgeman County converted just 6-of-10.
Satanta's quick run and subsequent large lead forced the Longhorns to play a man-to-man defense, something senior guard Minerba Gonzalez said was just to her team's liking.
"We like it when (opponents) play man-to-man. Whenever it's zone, we kind of stand around, so it's better when we get moving," she said.
Gonzalez, at just under 5-2, finished with 13 points, seven of those at the line, where she found herself often after driving the lane against a taller Longhorn lineup.
"I started getting to the line a lot more this year," she said. "I just got more confident at dribbling inside or drawing the defense on me and fouling me. I used to not be able to handle the pressure on free throws, but (coach) Heater makes us do those in practice."
Kelsey Blair led the Indians with 21 points. All five of her field goals, including a pair of three's, came in the first half.
Fellow senior Aubree Young added 16 points, and she grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
"Defensively, we had the effort that we needed. We boxed out well. And we executed on some things we added (Wednesday) in practice that we knew they were going to run," Indians coach Mike Heater said.
Creating 26 turnovers is part of his team's forte, he added. Pressuring the ball and trapping at halfcourt created a number of those opportunities Thursday, and his girls took advantage of them for some easy points.
Getting to the line a lot has been a key to his team's success lately, Heater said. Using a dribble-drive attack into the lane helped key the fouls and his girls converted well.
Satanta will face Minneola in the finals on Saturday, a team they beat 51-45 just a week ago to end the regular season.
"We've wanted this since we were in seventh grade," Gonzalez said. "This is our last chance, so hopefully we get it."
The title game is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday.
In the second game of the night, a smaller Deerfield team had the Lady Wildcats on the ropes for much of the game before three free throws in the final 33 seconds did them in.
The fourth quarter featured six ties, the last at 57-all with 1:44 to play on a pair of Hailey Novack free throws.
The Wildcats (13-8) spread the floor at that point. Then Kassy Ptacek drove the lane and was fouled, but she sank just one free throw.
A tip steal and floor-burn scramble gave the ball back to the Wildcats with just 17 seconds left. Ptacek and Ale Ruiz each hit a free throw in the final seconds to seal the win.
Deerfield (13-8) had a final shot, down two, when Crandall's three-point attempt hit the side of the backboard.
"We played as hard as we could," a spent Crandall said after the game. "They played great defense; we ran our offense. We did whatever we could. We played as well as we could. It just hurts coming up short."
The Spartans' effort contrasted to where they had started.
Deerfield had clawed its way back from a 15-8 deficit in the first quarter to close to within two at the break.
After 5-10 junior post Mariah Smith picked up her third foul late in the opening quarter, the Lady Spartans, playing much shorter than their counterparts, actually took a 27-23 lead with 2:01 remaining in the half, hitting 7-of-8 free throws in the second quarter and guard Bridget Crandall canning a three at that point.
Minneola cut that lead to one at the half, but Deerfield opened the third with a 7-2 streak to go up 34-28.
Crandall's three and Smith's offensive putback gave the Spartans a 43-36 lead with 2:18 to play in the third.
Then Minneola tied it up with a late run before Crandall knocked down another three to give the Spartans a 46-43 lead at the quarter.
The shot numbers worked against Deerfield in the fourth. While Minneola shot just 5-for-17 from the floor, the Spartans only hit 1-of-4 field goals
Also, Smith fouled out with 2:47 to play. And the Wildcats, who only converted 4-of-13 free throws the first three quarters, managed to nail 7-of-12 in the deciding period.
Spartan coach Doug Crandall was left imagining what could have been but was satisfied his team had done all they could.
"It was a great game to coach, a great game to play in," he said. "Somebody's got to lose, but it was a lot of fun either way."
Losing Smith in the second quarter, but managing to take the lead, he said, was a huge motivator for his team.
After losing to Moscow two years ago and to South Gray last year in sub-state play, Crandall said an effort like this is a great positive step for his team.
Hodgeman Co. 8 8 7 19 -- 42
Satanta 18 11 16 14 -- 59
Hodgeman Co. - Lane 5 3-4 14, Liggett 1 0-0 2, Beckwith 3 1-1 8, Beougher 1 2-4 5, Salmans 5 0-0 11, R. Borger 1 0-1 2. Totals 16 6-10 42.
Satanta - K. Blair 5 9-11 21, Al. Young 0 3-4 3, Caro 2 1-4 6, Gonzalez 3 7-8 13, Au. Young 6 4-5 16. Totals 16 24-32 59.
3-point goals - Hodgeman Co. 4 (Lane 1, Beckwith 1, Beougher 1, Salmans 1), Satanta 3 (K. Blair 2, Caro 1). Rebounds - Hodgeman Co. 18 (Beougher 7), Satanta 26 (Au. Young 14). Turnovers - Hodgeman Co. 26, Satanta 16.
Minneola 17 9 17 17 -- 60
Deerfield 15 12 19 11 -- 57
Minneola - Ptacek 9 2-7 21, Wilczek 1 0-1 2, M. Minor 1 0-0 2, R. Minor 7 4-9 18, A. Ruiz 0 2-4 2, Walker 2 0-0 4, I. Ruiz 3 3-4 9, Harrington 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 11-25 60.
Deerfield - Crandall 6 10-10 26, Novack 0 6-11 6, Vides 2 1-1 5, Hernandez 0 5-6 5, Smith 7 1-2 15. Totals 15 23-30 57.
3-point goals - Minneola 1 (Ptacek 1), Deerfield 4 (Crandall 4). Rebounds - Minneola 21 (Ptacek 5, R. Minor 5), Deerfield 24 (Hernandez 6). Turnovers - Minneola 9, Deerfield 10.