Neither team was able to get much going offensively in the first half, but the Lady Blue Devils (22-6) started to pull away midway through the second quarter to carry a 23-14 lead into halftime. It was in the third quarter that both teams started to get things going, as they each more than doubled their first-half output in eight minutes, but the Lady Panthers (17-9) just couldn't keep up.
"That's what we live and breathe by. The shots weren't falling in the first half, but we were able to stay in it by playing good defense and forcing some turnovers. Of course, they got hot in the third quarter, but we were able to overcome it because we were making some shots as well," Bremen coach Kathy Matthews said.
The third quarter opened back and forth, as the Lady Blue Devils made three 2-point baskets with Union County answering with 3-pointers. Then Bremen went on a 9-0 run, pushing the lead to 18 points. From there, the Lady Blue Devils kept making shots and forced the Lady Panthers into bad shots and turnovers.
Coming into the game, Matthews knew one key would be stopping the 3-point shooting of Union County, and her team's defense did just that. The Lady Panthers were just 3-of-15 from beyond the arc in the first half before making 5-of-11 in the third quarter and finishing 8-of-29. Overall, Union County shot just 27 percent in the game and Bremen out-rebounded them, 42-22.
"We knew they were going to get up a lot, we just wanted to make sure that they didn't make a lot. We wanted to play good defense and limit them to one shot. We were able to do that on most possessions," Matthews said.
With scoring at a premium early, even for Jordan Hill, the offense became a total team effort for Bremen. Kayleigh Medlin and Korra Jaglinski did damage inside, while Hill and Jamia Johnson worked the perimeter. All four got into double figures, led by Medlin's 20-point, 11-rebound double-double, while Jamia Johnson had 11 points and 11 assists to go along with seven rebounds. Hill and Jaglinski added 13 and 12 points, respectively, while Kalia Johnson had a team-high 12 rebounds to go with seven points.
When all five starters are that effective, it takes a little pressure off Matthews on the bench.
"It goes back to what we always say — it's tough to beat a team. When you've got one person that's doing everything and you can shut them down or keep them under control, it's easier to beat them. When you've got a team that [everyone] contributes, it's tough to beat. That's what we've been preaching all year. We have to have contributions from everybody and everybody playing their role. That's what we got," Matthews said.
The Lady Blue Devils expect four-time defending state champions in Class A, Wesleyan, to be waiting for them, again, in the second round. Bremen and Wesleyan have met in each of the past two state playoffs in the second round, and now will do so again as Class AA ball clubs.
"Third time's a charm. We're going to go in there and give them all we've got and see what happens. We'll start preparing [today] and go play them on Friday," Matthews said.