The Dodge City Lady Demons are moving on in the playoffs.
The Lady Demons beat the Topeka Trojans 43-34 Tuesday night. They’ll play the Derby Panthers at 7 p.m. Friday in Derby, Kansas.
With the loss, the Trojans’ season ended.
It was by no means a fast-start offensively for either team.
Dodge City sophomore Chidera Okoro scored the game’s first point on a free throw with 3:45 left in the first quarter. About a minute later, Topeka senior Morgan Carranza gave the Trojans their only lead of the game with 2:44 left in the first, hitting a shot from inside the 3-point line to make it 2-1 Trojans.
Later in the quarter, Okoro collected an offensive rebound off a missed 3-pointer by freshman Kisa Unruh and scored to give the Demons back the lead at 3-2. They took a 5-2 lead into the second quarter of a bucket by junior Ezinne Okoro.
After taking back the lead on Chidera Okoro’s shot, Dodge City never trailed again.
The Lady Demons outrebounded the Trojans 11-6 in the first quarter and 20-9 in the first half.
The Lady Demons led 13-9 at halftime.
“Obviously we went on a lull offensively but we owned the boards in the first half and I thought our defense was huge; we held ‘em to nine points,” Red Demon head coach Kelley Snodgrass said. “We just gotta get the offense going.”
Chidera Okoro had seven points but a team-high 10 rebounds with two assists. Ezinne Okoro had a game-high 14 points, her most in a game this season. Unruh had 11 points. Her last, a free throw in the final minute of the game, gave her 200 points this season.
Junior Caroline Williams had eight points and tied Chidera Okoro for a team-high two assists.
Williams also had two steals in the game. Those steals came at key points when the Lady Demon offense was struggling.
“I felt like Caroline Williams really sparked us with a couple steals there and took it all the way to the hole, and then (Ezinne Okoro) followed with her aggression, she got some second-chance opportunities which was huge,” Snodgrass said.
The team shot 61.3 percent from the free-throw line.
“Obviously towards the end it got better, but we just gotta step through with confidence and knock ‘em down,” Snodgrass said.
Williams’ aggressiveness was on display throughout the night. She drove into the lane often, and played well on defense.
“She always gives us energy and effort, and defensively she really helps lock down one of their perimeter guards, so if she can get some of those steals and some of those easy buckets for us, everybody else kind of follows suit,” Snodgrass said. “I was pleased with how she came out aggressive defensively.”
Scoring from near the basket was not always easy for the Lady Demons though, because of players like Carranza and Topeka sophomore Gracie German.
The former tied teammate and freshman Lilly Smith with a game-high four steals, while the later was the tallest player on the court at 6 feet, 0 inches tall.
“We gotta get better with the fake and then go around,” Snodgrass said. “I think we can use our speed but we’re not gonna power through 6 foot (players) very well, so we’ve gotta use more of our force moves.”
Junior Madison Armstrong was one player the final statistics from Tuesday might not give enough credit to, Snodgrass said.
“I think that Madi came in off the bench and gave us a spark,” Snodgrass said. “She hit a 3 and then she was very vocal out there as a leader and kind of got us in what we needed and made sure that we were running our press break.”
Next up for the Lady Demons will be a match on the road against the No. 2 seed Derby Panthers, who finished the regular-season 18-1.
Derby had not yet beaten their opponent Tuesday night at the time of the post-game interview with Snodgrass, but the matchup was likely considering both Derby’s seeding and the fact they had beaten their Tuesday-night opponent by scores of 51-8 and 45-18 this season.
“Obviously second round’s gonna be tough on the road, but I feel as though if we put four solid quarters together and everybody steps up that we can compete in postseason,” Snodgrass said. “Everybody’s showed glimpses of what they can do, now we just gotta put it all together.”