HAMLET — A mere few minutes.
That’s how long it took for South Central to essentially put a stranglehold on the sectional title Tuesday night.
Behind unselfish play and a fast start spurred by their defense, the Satellites raced out to an 18-point first-quarter lead.
From there, South Central never looked back, routing defending sectional-champion Oregon-Davis 88-53 on its home floor to claim its first sectional crown in 14 years in the Class A O-D Girls Basketball Sectional final.
“It feels so amazing,” Satellites’ forward Amber Wolf said. “I’m overwhelmed. It’s not really hitting me yet because we haven’t won a sectional since 2005.”
S.C. (19-6) used a harassing 1-3-1, half-court defense to force countless turnovers and build an early cushion. It went ahead 9-2 three minutes in, and later, pushed the margin to double digits, 14-2, after Katelyn Rudolph’s 3-pointer with 3:02 left in the opening quarter. South Central led 22-7 following the first.
For the night, Wolf earned 31 points on an efficient 11-for-14 shooting.
Freshman guard Abbie Tomblin followed with 19 points, finishing a perfect 7-of-7 on free throws. Rudolph added 10 points and hit all three of her treys.
Wolf and Tomblin helped the Satellites set the offensive tone. Wolf tallied eight points in the first, and Tomblin had six points.
S.C. was in great shape at the break, 45-29, and never let the Bobcats (15-9), who had just seven players dressed, get closer than 13 in the second half.
“Dedication to a plan (was crucial to the victory),” South Central coach Wes Bucher said. “The big thing about my team this year that I’m so proud of is the focus we have on a game plan and the execution. We had mentioned, with a team like Oregon-Davis, where they’re going to keep doing that over and over again. You can’t let off the gas pedal.”
The Satellites meet Class A No. 1 Marquette (23-2) in the first Caston Regional semifinal on Saturday at 9 a.m CST. That regional final is set for Saturday night.
“It wasn’t our night,” Oregon-Davis coach Terry Minix said. “South Central played extremely well, did a great job. You’ve got to take your hat off to them. They played wonderful. Obviously, our legs weren’t there.”
Minix added one of the Bobcat players, Jayden Worthington, has been dealing with a hurt elbow all season.
“Those aren’t excuses, trust me,” the coach said. “South Central just flat out out-played us. They deserved to be champions.”
Sophomore forward Mercedes Rhodes guided O-D with 27 points, with 19 of those coming before the break. She did her best to try and help her team mount a comeback as she fought for rebounds and took on the Bobcats’ scoring load. Guard Cassidy Stout scored 12.
After Rhodes’ 3-pointer early in the third, Oregon-Davis cut the deficit to 45-32. The Satellites answered with a 16-2 run, though, to extend the lead to 27 midway through the period.
S.C.’s defense forced 13 turnovers in the first quarter and forced 25 on the night.
Its defense at the outset was especially fundamental, holding O-D to only seven points in the opening period.
“We were taking away the lanes,” Tomblin said. “We were definitely communicating well. Coach made sure to specify, too, that defense was very important because they could find a lot of seams. We shut those down really well.”
The Satellites used an up-tempo style mostly in the first half to push the pace and capitalize on O-D’s full-court press.
“We were wondering if they’d press tonight, because that’s the way we play, running the floor,” Bucher said. “We’re so unselfish and confident with the ball in our hands right now, we’re able to get out in transition, make good passes and get easy layups.”
Wolf herself had numerous layups, aiding S.C.’s 20-point advantage early in the second quarter. Most of her scoring was on layups.
“The points are great but I’m always looking for the assists,” Wolf said. “Getting my team points, that’s what I strive for. I feel like I’m more of a creator for my team.”
For Oregon-Davis, it loses just two players to graduation and they’re reserves. The Bobcats say goodbye to Stout and Kamrielle Saylor.
“All the starters are back, and then, we’ll get three good incoming freshman who are very, very good,” Minix said. “We’ll see how that all works out, if I’m here or if I’m not, who knows? But they’ll be pretty good.”
At the end of the night, S.C. was celebrating a coveted sectional championship.
“It’s sweet,” Bucher said. “It’s even kind of hard to explain.”
Class A Oregon-Davis Sectional
South Central 88, Oregon-Davis 53
The Satellites’ Amber Wolf poured in a game-high 31 points and Abbie Tomblin had 19 points.