The Sterling Black Bears found a way to do what no other team this year has done against WaKeeney-Trego — make the Golden Eagles look vulnerable on the defensive end.
Trego’s defense has been its strength all year, but the Eagles had no answer for Sterling from the start of Friday’s Class 2A state tournament semifinal at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
The Black Bears started strong and broke away from Trego, picking up a 67-49 win to advance to Saturday’s 4 p.m. title game against Garden Plain.
“They hit shots, they pushed us around on the inside,” Trego coach Donnie Shubert said of the Black Bears. “We were flat. We’ve been given up 30-some points a game and we gave that up in a half. Take nothing away from them, they’re a great team — well coached, well disciplined, can shoot it and have a great inside game.”
The Eagles' previous season high for points allowed was 53, which came in an overtime loss against Norton.
Sterling coach Jill Rowland said a key to the Black Bears’ success was getting out in transition.
“That’s just who we are; we don’t play well when we try to slow things down,” Rowland said. “…We were just being us."
Sterling (21-4) led 15-7 at the end of the first quarter and took a 33-20 lead into the break. The lead had expanded to 17 by the end of the third. Trego (20-4) cut it down to 11 midway through the fourth but couldn’t string stops together.
"The fight was obviously still there, but we’d work on offense, cut it down to 11, and our defense failed us,” Shubert said. “That’s not what we’re used to. Our defense shouldn’t fail us. We’d hit a big shot on one end and give up an and-one on the other. That can’t happen in the state championships.”
The Black Bears, who shot 52.6 percent from the field, were led by Kinzie Comley’s 19 points while Makeena Linden and Kali Briar added 15 and 11 points, respectively.
“We tried to get it into our post,” Rowland said. “We really want to play inside-out. Our posts have to score for us and I thought they did a good job.”
The title game will be a rematch of a game early in the season that saw the Black Bears fall to the Owls, 56-48.
Rowland said she was proud of the progress the Black Bears made throughout the year.
“Early, we were 3-4, and I’m going to be honest, we were not very good,” Rowland said. “… The thing with a young group is that you can better in the season. We’re going to see a lot a more growth because of the young kids I’m playing. We got better.”
Lili Shubert led the Eagles with 23 points, going 6 of 15 from the field and 8 of 9 from the foul line.
Trego will go for third place at noon Saturday against Wabaunsee.