FORT WAYNE — Trailing by five points at halftime, defending girls Class 3A state basketball champion Concordia turned to an old friend – defense – in the second half to defeat Leo.
The Cadets turned up the pressure after intermission in a 58-41 sectional-opening win Tuesday at Bishop Dwenger.
Concordia (15-6) outscored Leo (17-5) 38-16 in the second half by using a couple of different pressure defenses. The Lions had 12 of their 18 turnovers in the second half and made only 6 of 20 (30 percent) from the field after making 10 of 20 (50 percent) in the first half.
“Our defense was such a huge factor for us, especially in the second half,” Concordia coach Dave Miller said. “Especially during the tournament, defense will win you the game. You need to make shots and be solid offensively, but you have to play defense. We made adjustments, and that really helped us a lot.”
Concordia will play host Bishop Dwenger at 6 p.m. Friday in the sectional semifinals.
Defense has been the staple for the Cadets, who won the 2010 and 2012 3A state championships.
“Defense is very important because defense wins games,” Concordia’s Courtney Smith said.
“Without defense, we would have lost it. We knew with defense comes offense.”
The ACAC co-champion Lions, looking for revenge from a 43-35 overtime loss to the Cadets in last year’s sectional finals, came out strong in the first half and built a 25-20 halftime advantage. Concordia held Leo to seven points in the third and nine in the fourth.
“They had a great game plan to turn up the pressure on us,” Leo coach Carrie Shappell said.
“We got a little physically tired by it, but they just came out and they were strong. I don’t ever doubt our girls give 110 percent, but when you get a little tired, and they you have that pressure and that strength, it’s really hard to overcome. It was great game plan for them to switch that at halftime. We struggled with that against Homestead (a 64-37 loss), and again at the start of the second half against Concordia.”
Smith and Olivia Hahn, two starters back from last year’s 3A title team, combined for 26 points in the second half after getting only four in the first half.
“It makes a difference,” Miller said of the team’s experience.
“Courtney has such a burning desire to do well, and she really picked it up in the second half. Olivia also played better in the second half, and that was huge.”
Smith finished with 18 points, getting 17 in the second half, and Hahn had 11, nine in the final two quarters.
“We knew we were a little mixed up in the first half, and we had to pick it up in the second half,” Smith said. “We just put it on a clean slate in the second half and put it all together. We were very mature this game. We stepped it up and we all did very well.”
Also for Concordia, Jackie Dixie and DeJour Young each finished with 14 points.
Leo got 12 points each from Jenna Beer and Keanna Gary.
Taylor Seiss had nine points, but only three in the second half.