By Bryant Billing
SIDNEY — Spotting a team seven points isn’t a normal strategy when it comes to winning tournament basketball games. It’s probably not a strategy Houston wants to employ in a sectional final on Saturday against Fort Loramie.
But in a Division IV sectional semifinal against Triad on Wednesday at Sidney, a seven-point deficit two minutes into the first quarter wasn’t a big deal for Houston’s game plan.
The Wildcats relentless attacked the paint for the rest of the game and took advantage of open looks on the perimeter in a 59-53 win over Triad. With the victory, Houston earned another shot at Fort Loramie in a sectional final at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Sidney.
Fort Loramie (19-5) beat Houston (8-15) by 26 and 30 points in two regular-season Shelby County Athletic League games, the latter of which came in Fort Loramie on Feb. 1.
“They’re a whole other animal,” Houston coach Brad Allen said of the Redskins. “They bring a whole kind of different dimension to basketball. Carla (Siegel) does a great job over there defensively and working her offense.
“We know we’ve got an uphill battle, but we know we can battle with them. I think we’re playing that well right now that I’ve told the girls they can play with anyone in the state. I think that momentum and that mentality going into Saturday may make a difference.”
The mentality was too much for Triad to contain.
After the Cardinals took a 7-0 early lead, Houston finished the first quarter on a 15-3 run. Sarah Monnier then opened the second quarter with a basket, and Hollie Voisard followed with a 3-pointer to push the Wildcats’ lead to 20-10.
“I called a timeout (after falling behind 7-0), and I just told the girls to stay composed,” Allen said. “It’s a long game, with a whole lot of minutes still in front of us. I told them if we got our offense going we’d be good. We made a switch on defense and came out of our zone and into our man, and I think that helped, too.”
Triad cut the Wildcats’ lead to six points at 29-23 at halftime and came within 47-43 on a 3-pointer by Alea Ferguson with 4:13 left in the fourth.
Monnier added a basket to push the Wildcats’ lead to six points with 3:17 left, and Rebekah New hit a wide open 3 from the left corner with 2:32 left to increase the lead to nine. Jessica Monnier then hit a basket in the paint with 2:03 left to cap off the 7-0 run and give Houston a 54-43 lead.
Triad didn’t come any closer than the final six-point margin through the last two minutes.
Jessica Monnier and Sarah Monnier were too much for the Cardinals (12-13) to handle inside. Jessica Monnier, a 6-foot-0 junior post, led the team with 26 points while Sarah Monnier, a 5-10 post, scored 13.
“When the Monnier sisters get going, we do a good job,” Allen said. “You can expect that out of them. They’ve just got to step up and execute, which they did. And being sisters, they read each other really well.
“… When we got the ball inside and Jessie and Sarah started scoring inside, they started double-teaming them, and that opened the ball up on the perimeter. Our perimeter play came on, and when you have a balance like that, your offense is doing good things.”
Houston lost five of its last six regular-season games, and Allen said he’s proud the team has advanced to a sectional final.
“It’s awesome and a great feeling for us,” Allen said. “It’s the preparation, the effort these girls give in practice. We’ve had a really good week. We’ve been off for almost 10, 11 days. We didn’t know how that would play a part, but we just got some momentum in the right spots.”