By Kim Staudinger
Playing in the first game of the afternoon, the Box Elder Bears were hoping to set a tone for the tournament let the underdogs win.
Winifred came into the game as the No. 1 seed from District 7C, while the Bears sat at No. 2 from District 9C. To Bears' fans, the win was expected, but the Red Raiders thought otherwise.
In a back-and-forth game for the first quarter, it appeared as if the game would be knotted at eight going into the second quarter, but Jena Heggem changed that, draining a three-pointer from the right side with nine seconds remaining.
Instead of motivation carrying over for Winifred into the second quarter, Box Elder turned the tables on the Red Raiders, controlling every aspect of the game to come away with the 64-40 win.
Box Elder advances to play Chester tonight at 6:30 in the first semifinal game, while Winifred falls in to the loser's bracket to face Highwood at 12:30 this afternoon.
"We had to get the nerves out again," Box Elder coach Shiloh Schwab-Hannum said of her team's early three-point deficit. "I don't think a lot of people expect us to do a whole lot."
The Bears' struggles early could be attributed to the tough man-to-man defense the Red Raiders played in the game, something Box Elder had not seen consistently before.
"We haven't been completely manned for a whole game," coach Schwab said. "Today was the first test of a new offense we put in in mid-season. After running it for the first quarter and seeing where the open players are and getting comfortable with it, we were in a little better shape."
Junior guard Tami Infante tied the game up at the 7:33 mark in the second quarter, but seconds later Winifred's Davin Udelhoven was fouled on a lay-up and made 1-of-2 free throws to give the lead back to the Red Raiders. Heggem hit a long two from the top of the key at the 6:43 mark, giving Winifred a 14-11 lead the last lead they would have in the game.
Chassidy Parisian answered the lead with a three-point shot from the right side, forcing the Red Raiders to take a time out.
Then, Box Elder's Brandi Lawrence took the game into her own hands, scoring seven of her 15 points in the last 4:27 of the half, giving the Bears a 30-23 lead. Kristie Pullin added four points in a 20-second span to help pad the lead.
"The girls never gave up even though they were missing shots," Schwab said. They knew the defense would take over and it basically did."
Lawrence picked up in the third quarter where she left off in the second, hitting a three-pointer from the right side just seconds into the second half to give Box Elder a 10-point lead.
Infante and Pullin picked up the pace and ran the floor, stealing the ball and dishing off sparkling passes to take charge and let Winifred know the Bears were the ones to beat. Pullin and Infante combined for 12 of the team's 20 third quarter points, while Lawrence added five.
Ray-lyn Shambo scored nine points in the final quarter of play to help Box Elder increase its lead and come away with the 24-point victory. Shambo finished with 12 points on the game.
Pullin led all scorers with 16 points. Infante finished with 10.
Heggem led the way for the Red Raiders with 15 points, followed by Candee Meckling with 13.
Winifred Laura Stulc 3, Davin Udelhoven 5, Candee Meckling 13, Kinder Willson 4, Jena Heggem 15.
Box Elder Kristie Pullin 16, Tami Infante 10, Josie Rosette 6, Ray-lyn Shambo 12, Chassidy Parisian 5, Brandi Lawrence 15.