Maple Grove coach Mary Bartkowski told her team all week that they were going to have to hit their outside shots if they were going to beat Silver Creek in Saturday's Section 6 Class C-2 girls basketball quarterfinal.
The Lady Red Dragons promptly came out and hit a 3-pointer 14 seconds into the game and nailed three more shots from behind the arc in the game's first 10 minutes. The fourth of those 3-pointers gave Maple Grove an 11-point lead, 22-11, a couple minutes into the second quarter and its advantage never dipped below nine points the rest of the game.
The fourth-seeded Lady Red Dragons brought fifth-seeded Silver Creek's season to an end with a 14-6 closing run that gave them a 54-37 victory at Maple Grove high school. The win advances them to Wednesday's semifinals at Jamestown High School, where they will meet top-seeded Frewsburg.
The Lady Red Dragons typically like to score their points from inside, but with Silver Creek's 6-foot-4 inch Jordan Brooks guarding the paint they were forced outside. Maple Grove didn't seem to mind, however, as Nickara Liddell and Jordan Ahlstrom each hit a pair of 3-pointers and Mikaela Swanson and Brianne Davis each added one.
''Our shooting was on from the outside,'' Bartkowski said. ''We knew our inside game was going to struggle today because of Brooks. Our team has great shooters and it came together today because they knew they had to shoot from the outside. We stressed that all week.''
The outside shooting became more vital based on the defense that Silver Creek played.
''They played a 2-3 zone defense,'' Bartkowski said. ''We have talked all along about a team that plays us with the 2-3, we've got to hit the outside shots. And (Liddell) and Ahlstrom hit them.''
Maple Grove's other focus this week was how to guard Brooks defensively. It did so by often sandwiching Brooks between two defenders. The junior center still managed 17 points, but with her teammates struggling to hit from the field, it wasn't enough.
''They were doubling up on Jordan Brooks and we had girls who didn't want to shoot,'' Silver Creek coach Tammy Rice said. ''They weren't comfortable with the basketball. They had open looks, but were hesitant to shoot.''
When the Lady Black Knights did shoot they usually missed, making just 17 of 68 shots from the field (25 percent).
''Our game plan this week was figuring out how we were going to stop a 6-foot-4 player,'' Bartkowski said. ''We're tall, but not that tall and not that strong. We put our strongest player behind her.
''She got her average (in points) but she was frustrated. She's tall, she's going to get her points. But we just wanted to do our best to hold her below 20 and they did that.''
The Red Dragons, who led, 16-9, after the first quarter, used an 11-4 second period to grab a 27-13 halftime lead.
With Brooks battling foul trouble, the Lady Black Knights' shooting struggles were really apparent during the period as they hit just 2 of 15 field goal attempts.
''I think when Jordan gets in early foul trouble and she's off the floor we struggle to find someone to score,'' Rice said. ''We got open looks, they just were not falling.''
Maple Grove had its own struggles in the third quarter, hitting just one field goal a 3-pointer by Ahlstrom to let Silver Creek hang around.
Brooks scored seven points in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter and her three-point play brought Silver Creek to within nine points, as close as it had been early in the second quarter.
The Lady Black Knights used full-court pressure to help them get that close, but Maple Grove handled the press over the closing minutes, scoring eight straight points to push its lead up to 17 points, 48-31, with three minutes left.
''I thought we handled the press fine,'' Bartkowski said. ''They threw it at us in the second half a little bit when my starters weren't out there. We did all right.''
Ahlstrom led Maple Grove with 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals, while Liddell had 12 points and seven rebounds. Lauren Nickerson added seven points and eight rebounds and Amie Adams (six points), Emily Swanson (five) and Emma Franczak (five) contributed to a balanced scoring attack.
Brooks had 14 rebounds to go with her 17 points and Marissa Donovan had 10 points and nine rebounds. Jade Lewis added four points, seven assists and five steals.
SILVER CREEK (37)
Brooks 7 3 17, Donovan 5 0 10, Orr 1 0 2, Gorka 2 0 4, Lewis 2 0 4, Utegg 0 0 0, Jones 0 0 0, Dexter 0 0 0, Seeley 0 0 0, Totals 17 3 37.
MAPLE GROVE (54)
Ahlstrom 5 1 13, ESwanson 2 1 5, Liddell 5 0 12, Nickerson 1 5 7, MSwanson 1 0 3, Franczak 2 1 5, Hemminger 0 0 0, Adams 3 0 6, Davis 1 0 3, Totals 20 8 54.
3-point goals-Ahlstrom 2, Liddell 2, MSwanson, Davis.
Silver Creek 9 4 9 15 37
Maple Grove 16 11 6 21 54