Step 1 to No. 3 is complete for Randolph Southern.
For Tri High, the chance for a second title this season remains alive.
The Titans defeated Union City 59-32 in Tuesday’s opener of IHSAA Class A girls basketball Sectional 56, while Randolph Southern, winner of the past two titles, defeated Bluer River 51-26 in the nightcap.
The Titans (16-3) will play Seton Catholic in Friday’s 6 p.m. semifinal. The Rebels (14-5) will face Union in the second semifinal that night.
“It’s always nice to be able to take that extra step to get to Friday night,” Randolph Southern coach Jerimy Stephan said. “I think we kind of overlooked it in that first half. … I think our thoughts were on Friday night instead of what we needed to do tonight, but we righted the ship at halftime.”
Both games had similar starts with the eventual winning team forcing plenty of early turnovers.
Southern overcame a slow shooting start by forcing 12 first-quarter turnovers, unofficially, and jumping ahead 12-2.
The Rebels led 23-14 at halftime, before a strong third quarter helped them build their lead to 44-19 after three.
Morgan Acton got three fouls early for the Rebels and missed time in the first half.
She came back and scored 13 of her game-high 17 points in the third quarter. Shelbie Hathaway added 14 points in the game, Maddi Kramer had nine, Logan Saylor eight and Kara Snyder three.
Kramer also had four steals.
“… In a game like this, it’s nice to have three, four girls that can score,” Stephan said. “Morgan came in that third quarter, gave us great job inside the post.”
Acton and Cameron Whitesel each had five rebounds, while Kramer had four.
Brenna Koonts led Blue River with 13 points and eight rebounds, while Christina Hughes brought down seven boards.
Union and Randolph Southern have met twice this season, with the Rockets winning the Randolph County Tournament meeting and the Rebels winning three days later in overtime, eventually earning a Mid-Eastern Conference title with an 8-0 record.
“We got to come out and play great team defense,” Stephan said. “That’s the one thing we did the second time we played them.”
In Game 1, every time Union City tried going inside, it seemed, a Tri defender would be there ready to intercept a pass.
The Titans had 10 steals, unofficially, in a first half that saw them take a 30-15 lead.
The Indians finished with 26 turnovers.
“They came out ready, and I told the girls, ‘They’re going to pressure you. They’re going to try to be all over you on defense,’ and we had to be prepared for that,” Union City coach Sarah Hines said. “I think we handled it at times. At other times we kind of panicked a little bit. Twenty-six turnovers for the game, and it’s just too many.”
Mackenzie Peggs led Tri with 15 points, Chloe Chew had 13 and Kay Lee Clemens 11. Clemens also had a team-high seven rebounds.
Brittany Osborne, Union City’s lone senior, finished with a team-high 13 points, six rebounds and three steals for the Indians (10-7). Raelynn Mills had seven points, while Courtney Wise and Kelsey Zimmers each had six. Wise also had six rebounds.
At 10-7, the Indians finish with a winning record for the first time since the 2005-06 season and contended for a Tri-Eastern Conference title late into the regular season.
“It’s been awhile since we had a winning record, and that is a step in the right direction,” Hines said. “It’s always tough to lose in this position, no matter what your record is, but I’m hoping that the program, we’re starting to trust each other. The girls are starting to trust me, and we’re starting to work together. And hopefully that’s a step in the right direction.”