South Putnam battled Monrovia in the Class 2A Cascade Sectional Friday and came away with a 54-45 win. It was the Eagles' second win against the Bulldogs this season.
For the second straight game, a team was able to neutralize South Putnam's post presence Leanna Masters and for the second straight game her teammate found a way to win. While their opening game win in sectional could be attributed to hot shooting, Friday's win simply came down to heart.
"There's a real sense of heart and belief in this team that surprised me to battle back in that second half," South Putnam head coach Lindsey Blackman said. "I'm so proud of them. I couldn't have asked for a better group of girls to work with year. They've done everything we've asked with a smile on their face and the heart and determination to make it true."
South Putnam struggled out of the gate with turnovers and found themselves down 25-20 at halftime. But a different Eagles squad took the court in the second half a put together a third quarter that would put them in front for good.
Jenny Thompson opened the second half with a three-pointer, with teammates Ericka Minor, Jenna Jones and Emily Dabkowski scoring to help propel South Putnam to a 9-0 run to open the third quarter. When the dust finally settled, South Putnam outscored 20-10 and had taken a 40-35 lead.
Blackman said her team was more patient in the quarter and that lead to some good things.
"Finally shots were falling. We finally had some patience on offense and let the game come to us instead of forcing it. We knew they were going to be a good defensive team and that's what I'm proud of -- that we stuck with our game plan and beat a great defensive team," she said.
In the final quarter, Monrovia battled their way back and forced a tie with the Eagles twice, but South Putnam was too strong down the stretch and came away with the win.
Dabkowski and Thompson led the Eagles with 15 points each, with Ericka Minor adding nine. Alex McHugh and Leanna Masters scored four points each, with Mattie Varvel adding three and Jones and Madison Cash chipping in two points each.
South Putnam will face the winner of Covenant Christian and Speedway for the sectional title. If the Eagles prevail, it would be their first sectional title since the 2004-05 season.
Blackman said her team needs to continue to focus on itself and play their style of game.
"One of the big keys to just keep us calm, because when we start calm and relaxed, we play well," Blackman said. "With both team (Covenant Christian and Speedway), there's going to be some excitement and some jitters going into a sectional championship.
"Regardless of who we play, it's focusing in on ourselves and keeping ourselves ready to play," she added.
South Putnam will play for the sectional championship tonight at 7 p.m.
Class 2A Sectional
Monrovia 10 15 10 10 -- 45
South Putnam 11 9 20 14 -- 54
Monrovia -- Mad. Knieper 17, Smith 12, Tharp 6, Keen 2, Casteel 4, Whitaker 2. Totals: 17-49 FG, 8-14 FT, 45 TP.
South Putnam -- Dabkowski 15, Thompson 15, Minor 9, McHugh 4, Masters 4, Varvel 3, Jones 2, Cash 2. Totals: 16-42 FG, 18-22 FT, 54 TP.