The rubber match went to the Rebels.
Now, Randolph Southern has winning another No. 3 in mind.
The Rebels take aim at a third consecutive sectional title in girls basketball as they face Tri High at 7:30 tonight in the title game for Class A Sectional 56.
Randolph Southern got there by winning the season series with Union. Shelbie Hathaway had game highs of 22 points and 16 rebounds, and the Rebels ran to a 59-46 sectional semifinal victory Friday night on their home court.
“I’m very excited,” said Hathaway, whose 11 first-half points helped stake Southern to a 31-21 halftime lead. “I just want to do as much as I can to help the team, and I think tonight we really flowed well together.
“We just need to work on rebounding. That’s where we struggle the most.”
Not on Friday.
The Rebels outrebounded the Rockets 41-27. Maddi Kramer followed Hathaway into double-double territory with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Southern junior Morgan Acton was 8-of-8 from the free-throw line, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds.
Hathaway, Kramer and Kara Snyder also hit free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
“They all step up,” said Rebels coach Jerimy Stephan, whose team improved to 15-5. “If they start believing and start doing what they are capable of, the results are tonight.
” … All six girls who were on the court played a great game tonight. They played great minutes.”
Union stopped Southern 55-51 on Jan. 13 at Winchester Fieldhouse to win the Randolph County Tournament.
The Rebels won the rematch three days later, earning a 54-43 overtime victory at Modoc.
The Rebels led every step of the way in Friday’s semifinal, though the Rockets did not go quietly.
Union, down by as many as 13 in the second half, cut that deficit to five, 40-35, when Lisa Rodriguez swished a 3-pointer at 1:23 of the third quarter.
Acton answered with two free throws to close the frame, and the Rebels opened the fourth quarter with four straight points by Acton.
Southern’s lead never dipped below nine the rest of the way.
“The problem was more the first half,” said first-year Union coach Tom Zell. “We just didn’t execute our offense very well. The big thing was the defensive end. We just didn’t cover their shooters, and they just got too many open looks and easy shots there in the first half.”
Kramer scored 13 of her points in the first half, and shot 3-of-4 in 3-pointers during that time.
DeAnn Kauffman led Union with 12 points, while Rodriguez scored 11. Rylee Davis had seven points and eight rebounds, and Kauffman and Hannah Griffey had five rebounds each for the Rockets (15-6).
“They were a very good free-throw shooting team, especially the Acton girl,” Zell said of the Rebels. “(She’s) really an excellent free-throw shooter. That’s not a team you want to put on the free-throw line.
“It’s disappointing. Most teams are going to end with a loss somewhere along the way, but we sure hoped to be playing for a championship.”
Tri and Randolph Southern faced off in last year’s final, with the Rebels winning 48-30.
No. 11 Tri advanced to tonight’s championship with a 71-32 win over Seton Catholic in Friday’s first semifinal. The Titans defeated Southern 62-36 on Dec. 19 in Lynn.
“It starts tonight. I go home and start preparing, and I know Jeff (Miller, Tri coach) is, too,” Stephan said. “Both teams are here because of a reason. We’re both good teams. We’ll tip it off and see what happens in the end.”
Added Hathaway: “I think we need to get back on defense (against Tri). We’re a fast-break team, so as long as we can get back and rebound, we’ll be fine. They’re a good team, for sure. I think we’re a good team as well. It should be a good game.”