Basketball

Swift start pushes undefeated Regina into regional semis

The start couldn’t have gone any better.

The offense was clicking. The defense was forceful — and in an instant, top-ranked and undefeated Regina had its playoff opener securely wrapped up well before the first-quarter buzzer sounded.

The Regals sprinted out to a 19-point advantage in the game’s first four minutes, ultimately transforming that into an emphatic 80-40 win over Tipton in Tuesday’s Class 2A Region 7 quarterfinal matchup at Regina High School. The win pushes the Regals into Friday’s semifinals against Maquoketa Valley, which upended Wilton, 66-50, on Tuesday.

“I thought this was probably the most dialed in and focused that we have been all year,” Regina coach Jeff Wallace said, “and that’s saying a lot, because we’ve had some really good dominating performances.”

“But that first quarter — the way we came out and how we were talking and communicating and the effort and the deflections we were getting — we wanted to send a message that first four minutes that we were going to come out here ready to play.”

Senior Sarah Lehman poured in a game-high 24 points and had double-digit help from Tipton transfer Alex Wiese (18 points) and Kennedy Wallace (12), helping Regina snag its third win over the Tigers this season by at least 30 points. Sharpshooting junior Mary Crompton added nine.

Backed by a mixture of forced turnovers and easy buckets, the Regals rolled up a 21-2 advantage midway through the opening quarter and a 25-9 lead after one. Regina’s stranglehold ballooned to 57-19 at the break, sending many of the usual starters to the bench for most of the second half.

“We were really, really clicking (Tuesday), and we were coming back from the game, where it was somewhat close at the beginning from last time,” Lehman said. “We really wanted to start off fresh this time.

“We’re having fun, but we’re also playing some of our best basketball.”

Pegged as the overwhelming 2A state title favorite since the preseason, the Regals have cruised through the season with little resistance. The stress of lofty expectations and an unblemished record are seemingly nonexistent.

The march continues onward.

“Yes, (they’re) very loose,” Wallace said. “Before the game, they’re dancing around in there, just having fun. We had the captains talk, and they were all just having fun. We told them to just go out and enjoy it this time and have fun.

“When it’s time to play, they’re ready.”

Regina's Sarah Lehman drives to the hoop during the Regals' game against Tipton at Regina on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017.

Regina’s Sarah Lehman drives to the hoop during the Regals’ game against Tipton at Regina on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017.