Victoria Opela scored a game-high 23 points for the Stapleton/McPherson County Lady Cyclones on Monday as they downed the Maxwell Lady Wildcats 41-31 at McGahan Activities Center, and now move on to play No. 1-seed Sutherland tonight in a D1-11 semifinal. Opela hit three 2s, four 3s and was five-of-six at the line in helping the Lady Cyclones win.
“She had some real key shots there, especially mid to late game, that really swung the momentum their way,” said Maxwell coach Mitchel Armour. “It put us into an uphill battle that we never really recovered from.”
Maxwell led 4-3 at the 4-minute, 49-second mark of the first quarter before the girls from SMC went on a 10-point run to lead 13-4. Opela began the run with a 3 from the top of the key and after Samantha Riedel hit one-of-two free throws Opela hit back-to-back shots from behind the arc to finish the quarter with 11 points.
The Lady Wildcats closed the SMC first-quarter lead to five at 13-8 as Anna Crane went coast-to-coast after a steal. Maxwell shut down the SMC offense in the second quarter, outscoring the Lady Cyclones 6-3.
“When we run our 1-3-1 aggressively it forces turnovers and makes teams struggle to shoot,” said SMC coach Adam Boettcher. “But when we’re not moving, like in the second quarter, they were hitting their shots.”
The low-point output in the second quarter isn’t new to Boettcher.
“That’s been our story all year,” Boettcher said. “We can put three quarters together but can’t put a fourth together.
“You never know which quarter it is going to be, it could be any of them. We always have that one quarter when we let teams play with us.”
Armour was happy with his team’s effort, while holding the Lady Cyclones offense to just three points in the second quarter.
“It’s just the diligence of our defense like it’s been all throughout the year,” Armour said. “There is no quit in them, no matter what’s on the scoreboard. We hung in there and were able to bring it to within a couple.”
With SMC holding the slim 16-14 lead as the teams headed to the locker rooms at half, the Lady Cyclones outscored Maxwell 12-7 in the third quarter and then 13-10 in the final quarter. Opela scored nine of the Lady Cyclones fourth-quarter points.
SMC freshman Kensie Burnside continually put defensive pressure on the Lady Wildcats, as she had several steals throughout the contest.
“She’s really stepped up from the beginning of the year to now,” Boettcher said. “She has always been very aggressive.
“Ever since January she’s made teams loose control of the ball because she gets up in their faces.”
Maxwell’s Anna Crane, as she has for most of the year, led the Lady Wildcats with nine points. Maxwell ends their year with a 4-16 record while SMC improves to 10-11.
“We were trying to match their baskets but just weren’t able to get enough stops late,” Armour said. “But our girls played really hard like they have all season. We have a lot of work ahead of us going into next season.”
SMC (10-11) ....................... 13 3 12 13 — 41
Maxwell (4-17) ................... 8 6 7 10 — 31
SMC: Kadee Cutler 0, 0,, 1; Victoria Opela 3, 4, 5/6, 23; Kensie Burnside 1, 1,, 6; Samantha Riedel 3, 0,, 7; Jacklyn Sonnenfeld 1, 0, 0/0, 2; Brianna Boyer 1, 0, 0/0, 2.
M: Anna Crane 4, 0,, 9; Bailee Keller 3, 0, 0/0, 6; Kayla Stenger 0, 2, 0/0, 6; Josie Cox 3, 0, 0/0, 6; Tracy Blake 1, 0, 2/4, 4.