From a defensive standpoint, last year’s effort from the WaKeeney-Trego girls basketball team figured to be a tough act to follow.

The Golden Eagles surrendered just 35 points per game last year on the way to a 20-5 season and fourth-place showing at the Class 2A state tournament.

Trego somehow managed to get even better on the defensive end this season, allowing about 30 points per game.

“I think it’s just more buy-in,” Trego assistant coach Shelby Crawford said. “We had a lot of success last year really focusing on the defensive end and saw how far that can take us. We’ve had girls step up and improve offensively as well, but we’re five points a game fewer than last year, and last year was a school record.

“A little bit more maturity. The girls got stronger in the weight room, got quicker, and they’re showing the gains in the season now. The girls have completely bought into it and they play hard.”

The stout defense has carried the Golden Eagles to a 22-1 record and No. 2 seed in the Class 2A state tournament. Trego will play Bennington (16-7) at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan.

Trego is led by junior Lili Shubert’s 18.2 points per game while senior Libby Frost is adding 12.2 a game.

The Golden Eagles’ only blemish was a 47-40 loss to Class 3A state qualifer Phillipsburg on Feb. 7. Trego beat the Panthers a couple of weeks earlier in the MCL Tournament final.

“The loss to Phillipsburg really kind of straightened us out, kind of refocused us,” Crawford said. “I felt like we were playing not to lose rather than going out to beat a good team. That loss doesn’t look good on our record, but it probably did us some good.”

The Golden Eagles rolled to a 57-28 win over Oakley in the sub-state final, while Bennington earned its spot in the tournament with a 42-22 win over Hillsboro.

“Bennington’s going to offer a good challenge to us, something we haven’t seen all year,” Crawford said. “A lot of high-pressure, high-intensity defense, trying to force you backward, and we don’t see a lot of that out here.”

Crawford said the Golden Eagles enjoyed playing close to home in last year’s 2A tournament at Hays, but they’ll also be eager to play in Bramlage.

“Anytime you get to play on a D-I court, that’s exciting,” Crawford said.

The Trego-Bennington winner will play the winner of the Sterling vs. Garden Plain game in the semifinals at 3 p.m. Friday. Garden Plain is looking for its third straight state championship.