The Cinderella Story continues in #14-Rochester. After knocking #2-SB St. Joseph in the Sectionals, it was #1 Benton Central next up for Tony Stesiak's Lady Zebras.
Benton Central, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A girls basketball for most of the season, ran into probably the hottest team in the state Saturday, a sharpshooting Rochester squad that upset the Bison 63-42 in the regional semifinals.
It was Benton Central's first loss in 26 games this season, and the Bison suffered one of their worst shooting games, going 35.4 percent from the field (17 for 48), including 6 for 22 in the decisive second half.
Other than opening the game with a 13-7 edge that Rochester erased over a two minute stretch, the Bison never saw the leader side of the scoreboard again. The Zebras shot 54.4 percent from the field for game (19 for 35) and 61.5 percent (8 for 13) in the second half.
Rochester's Ali Larkin scored 13 of her 16 points in the first half to lead the Zebras to a 29-27 halftime lead. Larkin answered twice after the Bison tied the contest in the second quarter. Coffman tied the game at 22 after converting on a three-point play, but Larker drilled a 3-point on Rochester's next possession.
Down by three again later in the quarter, Coffman again converted a three-point play, only to see Larkin make a driving basket to give the Zebras its two-point difference at halftime.
Two more times the Bison would tie the game in the third quarter, only to see Rochester respond on its next possession, the first on a Keaton Stesiak layup that allowed the Zebras to maintain the lead.
Stesiak's three-point play at the 5:54 mark put Rochester up 36-31. After another Coffman three-point play, Larkin knocked down her 3-pointer put the Zebras back up by five. The Bison would get no closer the rest of the game.
The Lady Zebras 45-38 lead into the fourth quarter, was solidified by Rochester's quick guard rotation whom started to take the air out of the ball once the Zebras got the lead up into double digits, forcing the Benton Central to foul and eventually grew the lead to 21 by the end of the game.
CLASS 3A ROCHESTER REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Sometimes you tend to worry about emotional letdowns after a huge win earlier in the day. Not so much a concern for Coach Stesiak and his Lady Zebras who took care of their evening opponent Hanover Central 52-38 to move onto the Semi-State.
The first quarter seen both teams playing cautious offensively, but aggressively defensively. By the end of the first quarter it was 7-6 Rochester in the lead.
Hanover Central did not shoot the ball well all game long which proved to be their downfall by the end of the game. But it was missed opportunities and turnovers in the second quarter that determined the outcome of the game and allowed a talented Rochester squad to advance to this Saturday's Semi-State against Tippy Valley.
Rochester point guard Alexa Holland had 10 of her game-high 24 points in the second quarter as Lisa Gac sat the entire frame. Rochester also got important scoring from Malchow (8), Larkin (7), Musselman and Ruff with 5 points.
Rochester simply did the little things right all game long that earned them their first Semi-State appearance since 2003 season in which they won state that year.
They will face TRC foe Tippy Valley at Warsaw at 6pm EST.
(FYI: both schools are just 13 miles apart from each other. Tippy Valley beat Rochester earlier in the season 52-40.)