For the second straight season, New Haven will play in the MSHSAA Class 2 girls basketball state championship game.
With a solid defensive performance throughout the contest along with key offensive stretches, the Lady Shamrocks cruised past Marceline in the state basketball semifinals 49-33 Thursday afternoon at the Hearnes Center in Columbia.
New Haven (21-10) takes on Crane (29-3) in the state championship game Saturday at 5 p.m. at Mizzou Arena.
“It feels good, but I’m not satisfied just being back where we were last year,” said New Haven junior guard Rachel Steinhoff. “We want to win.”
The Lady Shamrocks lost to Harrisburg in last season’s Class 2 championship game, 43-32.
To get to the title game, New Haven took down a Marceline team (27-4) that was riding a 19-game winning streak.
Defense was the key for the Lady Shamrocks, who held the Lady Tigers to 28 percent shooting for the game (13-45).
“We’ve played pretty good defense all year long. Our game plan was to slow down No. 34 (Madison McCormick) and No. 23 (Morgan McCormick). We had Rachel on No. 23 and Emily (Kallmeyer) on No. 34. They both did a good job,” said New Haven Head Coach Doug Peirick. “We played them straight up and used a lot of help defense. If they beat us, we had somebody there in the lane. Stephanie Gerling picked up a big charge with two fouls.”
The Lady Shamrocks’ stingy defense didn’t allow Marceline to get into an offensive rhythm.
“Missed shots were the story of the game for us. You can’t keep missing,” said Marceline Head Coach Kent O’Laughlin. “We were a massive 4 of 18 in the first half. Most of those were right under the bucket because we didn’t take many shots outside of the paint. You’re not going to beat many teams shooting 22 percent in the first half and 28 percent for the game.”
Steinhoff led the way for New Haven, finishing the game with 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. She was 9-9 from the free-throw line and played the entire game before taking the bench in the final seconds.
“We played hard. I didn’t really expect the score to be that much of a difference,” Steinhoff said. “In the fourth quarter, they had a chance where they could come back. That’s what I was thinking the whole time. I kept thinking we couldn’t let them come back. We got a lead and we kept it. I was happy with that.”
Like most of New Haven’s opponents, Marceline centered its defense around slowing down Steinhoff.
“She’s a good player. We knew that. We had different ways we thought we could be successful defending her. She made some plays,” O’Laughlin said of Steinhoff. “They’re a good ball team, there’s no doubt about it. They’ve been here. They stepped on the court with confidence. We stepped on the court a little tight.”
Emily Kallmeyer finished the game with 10 points, six rebounds and two assists for New Haven. She was 4-4 from the foul line.
Kierstin Monzyk added seven points and four assists.
Stephanie Gerling collected five points, two rebounds and two steals.
Megan Shockley registered four points and four rebounds.
Stephanie Scheer scored two points.
Kayla Meyer did not score, but grabbed eight rebounds.
Leading 8-5 after one quarter, the Lady Shamrocks began to pull away in the second quarter, outscoring Marceline 17-6.
Monzyk drilled three-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor and Steinhoff followed with nine straight points to help New Haven to a 25-11 halftime advantage.
“Kierstin hit a couple of big threes and Stephanie Scheer hit a long two. Those three shots changed the momentum of the game. It pulled them out of that zone defense and they went into a man defense,” Peirick said. “I told Coach (Tim) Scheer, if they go man, we can run our sets and be successful, and we were. Those were big shots.”
New Haven outscored Marceline 12-11 in both the third and the fourth quarters.
The Lady Shamrocks led by 16 points twice during the third quarter, which turned out to be the final margin of victory.
New Haven led 37-22 after three quarters.
“In the first half, we came out a little slow. We stopped them on defense, holding them to 11 points,” Peirick said. “That’s what we’re built on, our defense. We played our game and were able to come out on top.”