For Swanton it had to be the third time is the charm.
For Delta, good things come in threes.
Good things in triplicate was what happened as Delta knocked off Swanton for the third time this season, 59-47, to win a Division III girls basketball sectional final at Springfield Saturday.
The Panthers advance to the Millbury Lake District to play Archbold Thursday night.
Swanton came out smoking in the first quarter, shooting 72 percent as Cydney Christensen got loose inside twice, and Ally Hendricks got behind the Delta press a pair of times to give the Dogs an 11-10 lead.
Abby Freeman brought the Panthers back and put them in front with a couple of triples as part of her 10 first quarter points for a 17-13 Delta lead with 37 ticks left.
Haley Nelson chopped that lead to a single point with a three-ball out of the left corner at the 22-second mark, and after a Delta turnover, Aricka Lutz banged one off the glass from outside at the buzzer to put Swanton on top 19-17.
“They hit some big shots,” Delta coach Ryan Ripke said of the Bulldogs hot start. “Not only did they hit the shot at the end of the quarter but they also hit the one before that. But that goes back to what we do with the pace of the game. We are used to playing fast and most teams aren’t, so a lot of times our opponents’ first quarter is going to be their best shooting quarter and that’s what we are banking on. As long as we can play good solid halfcourt defense, those shooters may be a little off the rest of the game.”
Oh how prophetic Ripke was, as the Bulldogs shot just 2 for 11 in the second quarter, a pair of baskets from Christensen.
However, the Panthers weren’t much better, going 4 for 12 and needing a last second triple by Maddie Mattimore from the top of the key to break a 27-27 tie and put the Panthers up heading into the locker room.
Then in the third, both teams were guilty of mishandling the basketball and scoring became even more limited.
Brooklyn Wymer’s pair of free throws gave Delta a 32-27 lead, but Nelson hit again from the corner to get Swanton within two and then after a steal, the Swanton senior guard was fouled on the shot which drew a display of displeasure from Ripke that may have awakened his Panthers.
Whatever the case may have been, Delta ripped off the next eight points that included Mattimore’s spin move in the key, and Brooklyn Green hitting a long triple and taking a pass from Freeman inside for a score and a 40-31 lead.
“We had talked about their tendencies and we talked about not going for the scoop shot,” said Ripke. “I was really disappointed that we went for the scoop shot and put someone on the line. If they received a message, actually it was the halftime message that we are going to play with poise and patience and do the little things, and I think that is what we did to get some distance.”
Swanton stayed in contact as Nelson hit a foul line jumper and Sidney Taylor split two Delta defenders for a layup to cut the lead to 40-35 entering the fourth.
However, the pace of the game began to show.
Freeman started the fourth with a jumper from the middle of the key, Grace Sonick hit the front end of a one-and-one, and Green drilled another three from the left corner, and suddenly what was a tight game had the Panthers up 46-35 with 6:05 to go.
“That’s been our goal every game. We want the pace to be fast,” explained Ripke. “We play a lot of girls, tonight we played eight. We think we can play fast and we think that we can wear other teams down and so far that’s been a recipe that has worked for us.”
Mattimore hit both ends of the bonus to put Delta up 48-36 and from their it was the trio of freshmen, Green, and Braelyn and Brooklyn Wymer that took the Panthers home, scoring the last 11 points of the game.
And while Swanton had cooled to 4 of 13 in the fourth quarter from the field, Delta was 6 of 7 with a couple from outside the arc.
“The freshmen have grown up a lot this year,” Ripke said of his talented youngsters. “They have done an excellent job for us. They could make a claim that they are good enough to start but they know their role and they accept the role. Our team is really a team. Everybody cheers for everybody. They find the open girl and pick each other up when we make mistakes, so we are really proud of that.”
For the game, Freeman’s 15 points led a very balanced Delta attack. Green had 12 and Mattimore 11.
Nelson had 12 points and Christensen 10 for the Bulldogs who bowed out of the tournament at 15-8.
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org
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