Smith Center girls top Ellis, head to state
Published on -3/3/2013, 9:05 PM
By CONOR NICHOLL
PLAINVILLE - All season, seniors Sydney Benoit, Trenna Cox and junior Colbie Decker have led Smith Center High School. On Saturday, though, seniors Blair McNary, recently pressed into the starting lineup because of a season-ending knee injury to senior Briana Dietz, and Alexis Ryan also performed well.
Decker led Smith Center with 18 points, while the other four all scored between nine and 11.
The five starters combined for all of Smith Center's points as the Lady Red collected a 59-48 victory against Ellis in the Class 2A sub-state championship game.
"They knew they all had to step up," Benoit said. "That's what they did. I thought they did really good."
Smith Center, ranked No. 3 in Class 2A, had struggled in sub-state the last two years. The Lady Red went 19-3 two winters ago and 22-1 last season, but fell short of state both times.
This season, Smith Center improved to 21-2 with the victory, including 2-1 against Ellis. The Railers, ranked No. 4, had an 11-win improvement from 2011-12, and tied the school record for victories in a 20-3 season.
"I will give Smith Center all the credit in the world," Ellis coach Perry Mick said. "They are a really good team. I hope they go to the state tournament and win it or place high and I think that they will. They are a good team and it's unfortunate that we had to play them three times this year."
Smith Center trailed after Ellis took a 2-1 lead, but the Railers stayed close nearly all contest. Ellis closed within 43-39 early in the fourth quarter, but Smith Center used an 11-4 run to put the game out of reach.
Freshman Alexcia Deutscher paced Ellis with 22 points and nine rebounds. Ellis senior guard Bailey Hensley collected 28 points in a Mid-Continent League tournament championship victory against Smith Center earlier this season. However, this time, Smith Center played zone instead of man-to-man and held Hensley to nine points.
Smith Center led 26-18 at halftime despite having little scoring from Benoit, who didn't have her first field goal until 3:27 remained before intermission. Despite scoring half of her season average with 10 points, she did finish with six assists, many in transition.
"(Coach) Linn just told us to push the ball and get down the court," Benoit said.
Decker had to sit most of the first half with foul trouble. But in the first half, Ryan collected six points, six steals, three rebounds and three assists. McNary finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and seven steals. In the sub-state semifinals and finals, McNary played all but about four minutes in wins against Oakley and Ellis.
"It's been kind of hard for me, I had to gain a lot of confidence," McNary said. "It's been really fun, though. I really like starting. I get nervous, really a lot."