GBB – BC vs Peru. Dick Atha leads the Bison cheering section.
Benton Central is well aware of its ranking, its record and its reputation as one of the state’s powerhouse 3A girls basketball programs.
The Bison are also aware that one lackluster night in the tournament can take all that away.
So in Monday’s West Lafayette Sectional championship, the Bison dominated inside early, outside late and put away Peru 58-28.
“Obviously when it is your last year, it is do or die at this point,” said Courtney Best, one of BC’s four seniors. “You don’t want to leave that bad taste in your mouth and you want to win this for your team.”
The undefeated No. 1 Bison (25-0) advance to Saturday’s regional where they expected to face second-ranked South Bend St. Joseph’s. Rochester foiled those plans with a 51-47 upset in the championship game at Jimtown.
The Bison hit just 2 of 8 3-pointers in the first half Monday, but led 28-13 at halftime on the back of Katie Shields.
The junior forward had 10 of her 12 points and three of her four assists in the opening half.
“One of our keys going in to sectional, regional and hopefully beyond is we have to get off to good starts, get good finishes (at the basket) and the third quarter has to be ours,” Shields said.
All those things contributed to Monday’s victory.
With Shields, Kaylan Coffman and Evonnie Payne combining for 22 points in the first two quarters, outside shots opened up in the third and Maddie Tolen took advantage.
The sophomore guard drained a pair of 3s and finished 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, scoring 11 points.
“They started to double team our bigs inside, so we knew we had to get our outside game back on,” said Tolen, who also had two steals. “We had a great start and just kept the momentum going.”
Coffman had game-highs of 13 points and eight rebounds. Payne had three of BC’s seven steals and the Bison employed a diamond-and-one defense on Peru’s point guard. Tigers senior leader Josie Murphy was injured late in the first half and did not return.
The Bison led 17-6 after the first quarter, 28-13 at halftime and after giving up just four points in the third quarter, the Bison were in cruise control, leading 46-17.
BC lost in the sectional championship to eventual 3A champion Western last season. On Monday night, after weather postponed the title game originally scheduled for Saturday, the Bison won their 18th sectional title and fifth since 2009.
“I was proud of our team and how we responded,” BC coach David Baxter said. “We got through this sectional and we get a chance to move on and we are going to have our hands full.”
Class 3A Regional
Benton Central (25-0) vs. Rochester (21-4)
Time: 10 a.m.
What’s next: The winner will face either Lighthouse Academy (17-6) or Hanover Central (17-9) in the 8 p.m. championship.
If you go: Rochester High School is at 1 Zebra Lane.