An outward calm successfully masked the panic that started to creep in for Three Rivers’ girls basketball in the first quarter. Ultimately, a determined Coldwater team was simply outmatched and couldn’t keep the Wildcats down.
With another diesel-fueled effort by the frontcourt of seniors Teagan Reeves and Linsey Masnari, Three Rivers ended up rolling to a 64-55 victory Wednesday in a Class B district semifinal that wasn’t as close as the final score made it appear.
Reeves, one of this year’s Miss Basketball finalists, shot 77 percent from the field for 27 points on top of 13 rebounds and seven blocks. Masnari scored 21 points — 10 from the free throw line — and grabbed five rebounds.
The win at Sturgis means a championship date with the host Trojans Friday for the second straight year. Sturgis beat Vicksburg 52-38 in the other semifinal game.
After trailing by 10 points in the first quarter, Three Rivers (19-3) quickly closed the gap and was down only 14-12 heading into the second quarter. The deficit turned into a 30-23 advantage by halftime.
The double-teams that were so effective for Coldwater in the first half were countered over the final 16 minutes by a high-low game that Masnari and Reeves made look easy. As a bonus, freshman forward Krishanna Carter took another step in her rapid maturation and pulled up from her elbow sweet spot often en route to eight points.
“They were getting shots because we weren’t very active defensively,” Three Rivers coach Jason Bingaman said of the first quarter lull. “They just came out faster than we did. It’s actually kind of comical because before the game I had talked about the fact that every team we play from now on is going to punch us in the mouth and is going to give us a run … or maybe two.”
The difference in those situations, Bingaman said, is how the team reacts to being on the ropes.
“We went right back to our strengths and switched to a box-and-one on MacKenzie Galloway, and Alicia Schmidtendorff and Alexis Herbert caused her problems the rest of the night.”
Galloway finished with 11 points and Carlee Smoker had 10 for the Cardinals, which finished the year 9-12.
Reeves and Masnari traded buckets off screens to make it a 54-37 game with five minutes to play to completely move out of harm’s way.
“That’s something that we just put in here this week,” Bingaman said. “We ran it for the first time against Edwardsburg — just a four-high set when teams go man-to-man against us. We’re going to throw our two best players at you and see if you can defend them.”
Cory Sanders scored four points, and Herbert and Kimmy Sibert posted two each for the Wildcats. Carter led the squad with four steals, Reeves added five assists, and Herbert and Masnari both recorded three assists.
The Wildcats shot at a 47-percent clip as a team, finishing 21-for-45 from the field. They knocked down 21 of 27 free throw attempts (78 percent).
“If defensively another team doesn’t have to worry at all about [players other than your main scorers], it makes it real tough for Teagan and Linsey. Cory came in and knocked down a shot, Kim Sibert hit a shot, Krishanna was able to hit some jumpers and it forces you to at least think about other people.”