Bennington found a way to stay with the higher-seeded Trego girls into the early portion of the second half. It was then that the Golden Eagles defense took over.
Trego gave up only six points over the final 15 minutes of a 45-31 victory over Bennington in the opening round of the Class 2A girls state basketball tournament Wednesday afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum.
The win puts the Golden Eagles (23-1 and seeded No. 2) into Friday's 3 p.m. semifinal against either Sterling or Garden Plain. Bennington, making the first state tourney appearance in program history, ends its season at 16-8.
"Our young ladies, I'm so pleased with the way they continued to battle," Bennington coach T.J. Trout said. "They've planted the seeds for future Bulldog players and we're very thankful for the opportunity."
The first half included six lead changes and neither team led by more than five points. Bennington took its final lead when Kyla Kind opened the second half with a 3-pointer to make it 25-23. It was the first of only three Bulldog field goals over the final two quarters.
"We talked about coming out and the importance of that first three minutes of the second half," Trout said. "We couldn't fault the effort, but if a few shots had fallen it would have helped."
"I think we came out a little slow," Trego junior Lili Shubert said. "We needed to play better defense and stay focused the whole game.
"That's always the goal, to play as good on defense as we can. That means helping each other out on drives, closing out and boxing out."
After Kind's 3-pointer, one of six for the Bulldogs in the game, Trego followed with an 11-0 run that included baskets from Gracie Pfannenstiel and Shubert, a 3-pointer from Emma Day and back-to-back baskets inside from Madison Walt.
"We talked about how we knew they were going to pressure us and we practiced against seven all week," Trego coach Donnie Shubert said. "I thought we stood a lot and got pushed out toward the halfcourt line in the first half. In the second half, we got some good back cuts and were able to finish at the rim."
A Bennington 3-pointer from reserve Ashton Travis cut the Trego lead to 34-28 at the end of the third quarter. Shubert scored on each of Trego's first two possessions in the fourth, with Pfannenstiel scoring six points in an 8-0 Golden Eagles run after the Bulldogs got within seven.
Bennington went 3 of 14 from the field in the second half and shot 26.5% (9 of 34) in the game. The Bulldogs had only three field goals inside the 3-point line in the game.
"We play a pack line defense and our kids are going to help, help, help," coach Shubert said. "If teams Golden State us (make a lot of 3-pointers), they Golden State us."
"The effort was there but the shots were not falling," Trout said. "We knew they would be physical and pound it inside. Tonight they shot the ball well and were good at the line."
Shubert had 13 points and seven rebounds to lead Trego in both categories. Pfannenstiel had 11 points and Elizabeth Frost had eight.
Kind finished 3 of 4 from 3-point range and led Bennington with 12 points. The Bulldogs had three seniors on the roster, including two starters.
"I was very pleased with our young ladies and we were blessed to have the opportunity to continue to play in the postseason," Trout said. "This was the first time at state for our program and hopefully we can keep it going.
"Our seniors were fantastic on and off the court, and were the engines of this team. But we also have a strong group coming back and they've been sharpened by those seniors. I'm anxious for them to step up and take that role."