Arnold Schmidtberger and his Sacred Heart girls’ team knew that they would have to play one of their best games of the season if they wanted to win Monday night’s first-round substate game on the road at Smith Center.
The seven-seeded Knights played solid basketball for all but eight minutes. Unfortunately, it was the third eight minutes of action that cost the Knights the game as they would lose to the second-seed, Smith Center, 48-32 to end Sacred Heart’s season.
While Sacred Heart struggled to score in the first quarter, scoring just two points, they kept things close only trailing by seven at the end of the period.
Sacred Heart would come out with a renewed enthusiasm in the second quarter as the Knights would find their big, Anna Ivey, several times in interior offense. Sacred Heart continued to play solid defense holding the Lady Red of Smith Center to under 30% from the floor in the first half.
Still, Smith Center led 17-13 at halftime, but Sacred Heart was in striking distance after outscored Smith Center in the frame.
The wheels fell off for the Knights in the third quarter, though. Smith Center came out with more intensity and caused several Sacred Heart turnovers. It also didn’t help that the Lady Red heated up behind junior, Gracen Hutchinson, as Smith Center started the quarter on a 10-0 and would never look back.
Smith Center outscored Sacred Heart 23-10 in the third quarter, allowing the Lady Red to hold a comfortable margin, 42-23 going in to the final quarter.
With their season on the line, Sacred Heart tried to chip away at the lead. At one point the Knights trimmed the margin to 14 points with under four minutes left, but Smith Center held the Knights at arm’s length and pulled away for the opening round substate win.
Smith Center (13-8) advances to the semifinals of the 2A Belleville Substate where the Lady Red will face Bennington, who eaked out a two-point win over Republic County in their first round game. Smith Center was led by Hutchinson with 18 points and 11 rebounds for the double-double.
Sacred Heart (4-17) ends their season with another losing record for the ninth-straight season. However, the Knights improved one game on what they did in 2016-2017. The Knights were led by the Salina Ortho “Player of the Game” Ivey, who scored 12 points and snagged nine rebounds in her final game with Sacred Heart.
The Knights girls’ team ends their season. The boys’ team plays tomorrow night against county-rival, Ell-Saline in a 1/8 match up in the first round of substate. The Knights begin their defense of their state crown tomorrow at 7 p.m. on FM 104.9 & Real Country 101.7.