Strong proved too strong for Buffalo Island Central, dominating almost every aspect of the game as the defending State Champions rolled to a 69-36 victory, ending the Lady Mustangs dream of a State Championship in the Class AA quarter-finals Friday afternoon at Jessieville.
The Lady Bulldogs used a smothering full court press and a stifling half-court defense, causing the Lady Mustangs to commit an uncharacteristic nine first quarter turnovers. Strong also came up with five blocked shots in the first period alone in building a 19-11 lead heading into the second period.
The Lady Bulldogs started the second quarter as they left off the first, keeping the Lady Mustangs out of sync with their hard nosed defense while dominating the offensive boards. Brittany Johnson scored 14 of her game high 25 points in the first half, including eight in the second quarter in helping Strong build a 39-21 halftime advantage.
BIC had problems not only getting the ball up the floor but getting their shots off as the Lady Bulldogs finished the first half with seven blocked shots while causing BIC to commit 14 turnovers.
Strong continued to pound away in the third period and headed into the final frame with a 59-32 lead. The Lady Bulldogs then pushed the lead to over 30 points in the final period which invoked the "mercy" rule.
Nan Lee Bridges, playing in her final game as a Lady Mustang, was the only BIC player in double figures, scoring 15 points. Jessica Shepard finished the day with eight points, Lauryn Smith scored four, while Ashley Tate, Stephanie Baldridge, and Katie Olive all added three points apiece. The Lady Mustangs were limited to 38.2 percent field goal shooting as they connected on just 13-34 attempts. BIC was 5-13 from the charity stripe and 5-13 from beyond the three point arc. The Lady Mustangs were out rebounded 45-29.
Strong placed two other players in double figures as Desiree Rogers scored 11 and Jasmine Canser tallied 10. The Lady Bulldogs finished the day 25-63 from the field and 17-29 from the foul line.
"Strong is the real thing," said BIC Coach Mike Kinard. "They are well coached, and we knew coming in that we had to be very, very close to perfect. We weren't, and they are the kind of team who knows what to do when you are not perfect. We probably lost to the state champions. We would have liked to have had a better showing, but sometimes when you have a group of kids they don't always respond like you want them to. We didn't respond very well to the pressure they put on us. They blocked a lot of shots they shouldn't have. We had talked about that before the game. When you get shots blocked from out around the three point line, most of the time it is because you are not ready, and that is not acceptable. But this group of young ladies has done an incredible job all year long and I am very proud of them. Nan Lee Bridges, our only senior, has been unbelievable since the seventh grade. She has always done everything we have asked of her and more, and tonight, she fought and competed like no one else until the bitter end. It has been a pleasure coaching her and we will miss her very much. We did something no other team has done in BIC history and that is get to the state tournament, and then we won a game. You always hate it to end, but only one team can win the ultimate prize, and Strong is a very good basketball team."