High School Sports

Connell girls make it 5 straight SCAC East titles

BENTON CITY -- The first time Connell and Kiona-Benton met this season, the Bears took the Eagles by surprise.

That was not the case Saturday, as the Eagles looked more like the team who finished sixth at state last season.

Connell hammered Kiona-Benton 52-24 to wrap up the SCAC East title for the fifth consecutive season.

"The mentality was way different (Saturday)," Connell's Maci Whitby said. "At home, they weren't our No. 1 focus. After losing to them, we realized we can't just show up and win."

After a pair of big runs by both teams in the first 12 minutes, Connell showed why it's been to state four years in a row.

The Eagles (16-3 overall, 10-1 SCAC East) used an intense, pressure-filled defense to harry the Bears into turnovers, missed shots and few second opportunities.

"We played great defensively in the second half, often holding them to one shot per possession," Connell coach Dan Colby said. "We play good man-to-man defense and stress moving their feet."

The Eagles did all those things, outscoring the Bears 35-9 over the final 21/2 quarters.

Connell jumped out to a 16-5 lead with 6 minutes left in the first half, thanks to an 11-0 run highlighted by two layups by Kayla Bjorge.

The Bears responded with a 10-1 run to pull within 17-15 with 2:41 left in the first half, as Cierra Torp had a three-point play, a layup and made two free throws.

"Even when we made our run, I was worried," Kiona-Benton coach Joe Wirtzberger said. "Our shots were short and when we don't penetrate to the basket, it means our legs are tired."

Connell responded again and Kiona-Benton couldn't find any creases in the defense the rest of the game.

Five different players contributed to a 9-0 run to close the half, highlighted by a Whitby 3-pointer from the top of the arc.

The second half wasn't much better for the Bears, as they were outscored 27-9. It was a complete team effort for Connell, which had 10 players appear in the game and nine scored. The Eagles also forced the Bears to committ 30 turnovers

"This was so great," Whitby said. "After losing to them by one -- and we shouldn't have lost that game -- to almost beating them by 30.

"They are averaging 50 points per game and our defense held them to 24 points. That says something about our team."

CONNELL (52)

Kayla Bjorge 4 0-0 9, Laryn Wells 2 4-8 8, Brooke Gibbons 2 3-6 7, Nikoal Withers 1 1-4 3, Kody Easterday 2 6-6 10, Michelle Schultz 1 1-2 3, MarciAnne Hawkins 1 0-1 2, Maci Whitby 2 1-3 7, Megan Booker 1 0-0 3, Chelsea Riner 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 16-30 52.

KIONA-BENTON (24)

Taylor Brown 1 0-8 2, Yesenia Torres 3 0-0 8, Kendall Watts 0 0-0 0, Bailey Schroeder 1 0-0 2, Martha Nunez 1 1-4 3, Cierra Torp 3 3-3 9, Cheyanne Henrich 0 0-0 0, Taylor VanHollebeke 0 0-0 0, Brittany Vickerman 0 0-0 0. Totals 9 4-15 24.

Connell 13 13 12 15 -- 52

Kiona-Benton 5 10 4 5 -- 24

3-point goals -- Connell 4 (Whitby 2, Bjorge, Booker), Kiona-Benton 2 (Torres 2). Total fouls -- Connell 18, Kiona-Benton 29. Rebounds -- Connell 25 (Wells 5), Kiona-Benton 41 (Schroeder 10). Turnovers -- Connell 15, Kiona-Benton 30.

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